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Top ER strategies for mental health emergencies

Article-Top ER strategies for mental health emergencies

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Emergency response teams need to be better equipped to address emergencies related to mental health.

In the face of a growing mental health crisis, emergency departments around the world are recognising the urgent need for transformation.  

Considering that one in five (22 per cent) people suffer from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia as a result of war or other conflicts in the previous decade, these once purely physical spaces can no longer turn a blind eye to the silent struggles of those seeking solace from invisible wounds.  

Building a bridge between physical and mental health is the goal of the ongoing effort to improve emergency departments' ability to handle mental health problems. The time when physical illnesses' urgency overshadowed mental health emergencies has long since passed. Medical professionals are paving the way toward specialised training, collaboration, and innovation with a renewed sense of purpose to give those going through a mental health crisis the support and care they so desperately need. 

Related: Reimagining emergency care: from idea to run

According to the definition of ‘health’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health cannot be separated from the entire human wellbeing. Therefore, the global health workforce needs to collectively work towards enhancing emergency department response to mental health emergencies. This reinforces how vital it is. 

By prioritising mental health, lives can be saved and suffering alleviated. Breaking the stigma surrounding mental health, emergency departments can challenge the notion that mental well-being is secondary to physical health. Through responding effectively to mental health emergencies, emergency rooms contribute to reducing the financial burden on healthcare systems, preventing costly interventions, repeat visits, and ensuring that individuals receive ongoing support beyond immediate crises. 

The following tips and strategies can help the emergency response team be better equipped to address mental health emergencies: 

Dedicated mental health team: Consider creating a dedicated mental health team within the emergency department consisting of psychiatrists, paramedics, psychiatric nurses, and social workers. This team can provide specialised expertise in assessing and treating mental health emergencies. An apt instance is in Thunder Bay, Ontario, a program including the police, the hospital, and mental health professionals is succeeding in how it responds to calls about mental health crises. 

Related: Development and innovation in emergency transfusion

Specialised staff training: This is to ensure the emergency room personnel has received specialised instruction in mental health crisis intervention. This involves instruction in de-escalation methods, assessing suicide risk, providing trauma-informed care, and identifying common mental health disorders. 

Collaborative care: The emergency and mental health departments need to form alliances with organisations and individuals in the mental health field to encourage interaction between emergency room workers and mental health specialists. To ensure that patients receive the proper follow-up care, this collaboration will serve to speed up the assessment and referral process. 

Reduced wait times: The management of healthcare facilities need to create plans to reduce the amount of time people in mental health emergencies must wait. Delays in receiving care can worsen suffering and raise the possibility of unfavorable outcomes. The process can be sped up by putting protocols in place for quick triage, assessment, and intervention. 

Peer support programme: Peer support programmes where people who have firsthand experience with mental health issues can offer support and direction to patients who are experiencing a crisis have been found to be immensely impactful. Peer support professionals can help to lessen stigma, provide sympathetic understanding, and offer insightful advice to improve the standard of care. 

Data collection and analysis on emergencies involving mental health in the emergency room: This data can be used to evaluate initiatives' efficacy, spot patterns, and plan for upcoming healthcare delivery changes. 

Continuous learning and quality enhancement: It is important to encourage continual training, inspiring evidence-based modifications to protocols as well as practices and education for emergency department personnel to keep them up to date on best practices and developments in mental health care.  

Enhancing emergency department response to mental health emergencies is a matter of utmost urgency and compassion. By prioritising mental health, breaking down stigma, and implementing comprehensive strategies, emergency departments can become safe havens of support, healing, and hope for individuals in their most vulnerable moments.  

Through collaboration, specialised care, and a commitment to continuous improvement, we can forge a path toward a future where mental health receives the attention and care it deserves. 

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