What My Experience Says About Mental Health Emergency Professionals

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

I’m here to talk about the mistreatment I have received (and I am sure so many others have as well) from medical professionals when experiencing a mental health crisis. I believe that change is not only needed but completely necessary — especially at a time like this, a time where mental health crises are rising on the daily.

I am someone who struggles immensely with mental illness. I am someone who has survived many suicide attempts. I am someone who has needed medical attention during many of my mental health crises, and unfortunately, the treatment I have received has not been the best.

I remember one night very clearly. It was another one of my suicide attempts and I was sitting in the back of an ambulance, humiliated. The EMS worker bluntly said to me, “You know, you’re being selfish.” He continued by saying, “There are real sick people who need our help.”

I cannot even explain to you how his words made me feel. I felt invalidated and stupid. I felt my pain and my struggles caused by mental illness did not matter. In that moment, the only thing I wished for was that my suicide attempt had been completed. You see, what this EMS worker said to me only made me feel worse. He only intensified my already-strong self-hatred. People who struggle with mental illness and attempt suicide do not need to be made to feel worse about themselves. Trust me, the internal battle we face daily is way worse than anything you could possibly say to us.

That same EMS worker even suggested a different suicide method to me that would have resulted in a completion. I was dumbfounded and absolutely shocked. Have we really failed this much when teaching our first responders how to treat and respond to those living with mental illness?

Have we really taught our first responders and medical professionals how to properly treat people with mental illnesses at all? We are told to go to the emergency room if we are experiencing suicidal thoughts —but is the ER really a safe, welcoming place for someone who is mentally ill? From my experience, the answer is no. I should not have to sit alone in a cold, white ER room, feeling embarrassed and small — but that is exactly how I have felt on every occasion I was brought into the ER.

Nurses and doctors entered the room with a sigh. A sigh that informed me that I was a burden — a waste of their time and not truly someone who needed medical attention. When are we going to start treating mental illnesses for what they are — an illness?

How many lives can we save or could we have saved by offering more welcoming environments and personnel for those of us contemplating suicide?

I think the answer is staggering. Do you want to know how many times I decided not to seek help in my moments of crisis because I was afraid of judgment and ridicule?

Too many. Too many times.

Change starts now.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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