Thinking about the Future


A person’s experiences of care within emergency departments (ED) can impact their mental health and contribute to how they view the ED as a place for mental health care.

When contemplating how they would approach future possible ED visits, some people we spoke to described developing a care plan or said they would bring along a support person to help them navigate the complexity of the ED. Others said they did not want to attend the ED again because they had found alternative services or treating professionals more appropriate for them. When ED staff talk to a person about possible treatment and care options it can be useful to ask about previous experiences of mental health care, including what has been effective in the past. Understanding what types of care has been effective in the past may help ED staff to identify appropriate options and facilitate agreement about treatment decisions.

Some people reported wanting to actively avoid the ED in the future because of challenging experiences of care in the past. To reassure a person who might be anxious or fearful about being in the ED because of previous experiences, it can help to ask them what happened and find a way to work together to avoid causing further distress.

Key points

  • A person’s previous experiences of mental health care within the emergency department can impact how comfortable they feel attending again in the future.
  • When providing care and support, it can improve interactions when staff are guided by how a person describes their experience and explains what they need to feel safe.
  • When ED staff work with people to understand how they have experienced mental health care in the past (within or outside of the ED) and find a way to collectively work towards finding appropriate support and treatment, it can help a person to feel safe and supported.
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Suggestions for improving mental health care within and beyond the Emergency Department