I’m a regular in my local, that probably doesn’t sound unusual or uncommon except I don’t mean my local pub I mean my local a&e department. Like around 1 in 4 people in the U.K. I have mental health problems and often require medical attention for self harm, I decided to write a post about my experiences in a&e as an open letter to medical professionals.
Dear Dr or health care professional
The NHS is underfunded and over stretched, you work long hours in a challenging conditions often with little thanks or support; it’s impossible to be oblivious to the current state of our health care system. When you’re juggling patients and trying to be in 3 places at once it’s not hard to understand why you might not want to spend an hour or more treating someone for self inflicted injuries especially when you’re coming to the end of a long shift; however you chose a career helping people and taking care of their medical needs and I am a person in need of medical attention.
If you’ve never experienced a mental health problem or felt a need to harm yourself then I don’t expect you to understand how I feel or why I do what I do but the way I got my injuries doesn’t change the way they should be treated. I’ve been treated in ways I can’t imagine people who are there after an accident would be.
I’ve had wounds washed out in a sink in front of all the other cubicles and taken from one part of the department to another with nothing covering my arm while people stare at me often horrified, on one occasion my arm was covered so it wouldn’t scare the children in the paediatric a&e.
I’ve been stapled with no local anaesthetic and told it’s fine because it doesn’t hurt (it does), I know this is in partly due to guidelines but I’ve also had malicious treatment where one Dr repeatedly pulled the Staples out and re did them all the while telling me if I didn’t stop I’d lose my arm while I sat in bed crying. I’ve had Drs tell me to think about how long it took them to treat me compared to the time it took me to hurt myself and when I’ve felt faint from blood loss and said I need to sit down told I can wait a couple of minutes.
In my a&e notes it says most of the time that I’m not distressed or that I was making eye contact; apparently that means I’m fine. My mental state is frequently being judged as fine because I’m not shouting or being abusive or absconding however on times when I have been visibly upset I’m ignored.
I know accident and emergency staff are there to treat my physical injuries and leave the psychological side of things to the psych liaison but please remember that attached to the arm you’re treating is a person, I know my cuts can be deep and you may need another opinion but I’m not an exhibition for everyone to come and have a good look and discuss the damaged I’ve done, I see the signs that talk about dignity privacy and respect yet that doesn’t seem to apply if you’re a mental health patient; a little discretion wouldn’t hurt.
This isn’t intended as a criticism of the NHS I know I’d be dead without it but I didn’t choose to be this way, it’s something I’ve not been able to break away from despite treatment and no amount of snapping elastic bands of holding ice cubes has ever replaced it as a coping mechanism.