A Letter To Those Who Deal With Mental Health Crises

Dear Police/Crisis teams/Nurses/Doctors/Healthcare workers,

I understand that many of you see mental health crises on a daily basis and I can understand that you probably become quite numb to the situation. I can imagine that seeing your first patient who is seriously contemplating suicide was probably very emotional and difficult for you but after seeing hundreds of patients who want to take their life you become so used to it that it becomes the same as walking to the shop and buying some milk

I understand that for some of you it is simply just your job and just your way of making ends meet but I also know that many of you are incredibly passionate and caring human beings and you want to help those people in need.

Whilst I know that you may become quite numb to your work, please try to put yourself in the patient’s shoes. In every patient’s shoes. They may just be another patient to you but it is this person’s entire life and if that person was found very distressed or mid-way through attempting to take their life then that is heartbreaking. Whilst you cannot get emotionally attached to each case that you come across, please think carefully about how you treat them.

When I am in a mental health crisis small talk becomes big talk. I’m often asked if I’m in education or have a job or if I aspire to. I can barely think, I can’t get my mind to form sentences and right at that moment my occupation is the least of my worries. If someone was in front of you having an asthma attack then you would ask about their breathing and so on, I doubt you’d start asking them if they have a job.

Be aware that the person in front of you probably doesn’t like themselves or their life very much and therefore may feel very sensitive or self-conscious. I tend to get comments on how I look very young or like a 12 year old and “I bet you don’t get served in a pub!” These comments are not helpful when I feel like I don’t want to be alive. I know that you are just trying to make conversation but sometimes when I’m poorly I don’t want these conversations.

Please try to look at each person in crisis as a ‘new person’ rather than ‘another person’. Try to imagine yourself in that person’s position. If you wanted to die would you want to discuss your employment? If you had anorexia would you want to be asked “Do you ever feel hungry?” and constantly offered a sandwich? If you were struggling with body dysmorphia would you want people to comment on your looks?

Finally, please realise that the care you provide to that person will be remembered. I have had triage nurses put me off going to A&E, I have the worry of ending up in a police cell again every time I reach crisis point and I’ve had very triggering and upsetting comments from mental health professionals that have left me feeling like it is easier to remain silent.

Please be the person that the patient remembers for outstanding care, please be the person that helps a poorly and vulnerable person and offers them an appropriate ear. Give hope and help at a time when that person really needs it because in that moment you are the one with the power to make a difference.

Many thanks in advance,

Claire Greaves