Emergency Room Suicide Prevention

Pay more attention to mental health says another article in the Edmonton Journal concerning the Emergency Room suicide of Shayne Hay I reported on yesterday.

Gee, why didn’t that idea occur to the staff working in the emergency room? 12 hours plus is a long time to wait to see someone when you’re having an emergency.

The article then goes on to suggest honoring Shayne’s death by contemplating 3 points. I’d like to add that if we don’t want more deaths of this sort to be the order of the day in the future we’d better be doing a little more than contemplating.

The three points:

1. This death draws attention to the issue of suicide, an attention the issue would have been less likely to receive if Shayne had hung himself elsewhere than in an examination room in the emergency department of a hospital.

What, and no attention to the Heinz Catsup slowness of bureaucratic systems!?

2. Not enough attention is given to the tension between the need to protect civil rights and the need to protect people from themselves.

Moot point when a man dies as a result of emergency room negligence. Had he hung himself anywhere else in the world they’d not have been any more successful at protecting him from himself.

3. People with no experience with emotional problems need to better understand
the amount of trouble emotion problems create for family members and friends.

I don’t think it was any picnic for the man who spent 12 hours waiting for the hospital staff to get around to addressing his EMERGENCY either.

When is anybody going to get the very basic fact that this is not about “mental illness”? This is about emergency room care. Given bureaucracy, waiting to see a doctor outside of the emergency room, with an appointment, might be a time consuming affair. All the same, I think in all likelihood it’s not going to involve 12 + hours at one sitting.

Let me follow the example of the author by offering my own 3 points.

1. When circumstances such as this lead to investigations, changes get instituted, and when they don’t lead to investigations, nothing changes. Let’s try to make an investigation of it.

2. This is about prejudice. This is about how we treat people labeled “mentally ill” differently from people who have not been labeled “mentally ill”. This is about not seeing a non-physical emergency as a “real” emergency. Don’t neglect people, labeled “mentally ill” or otherwise, in emergency room situations.

3. Don’t blame it on a lack of money and resources for mental health. The money is there, and the people are there. You don’t even need psychiatrists if you have paraprofessionals. The psychiatrists are often uncaring people where the paraprofessionals are often very caring people. You don’t need excuses when you do something about the problem experienced (i.e. Shayne Hay killed himself in an examination room of the emergency room of a hospital after spending 12 hours unattended.)

Using Shayne Hay’s death to beg for more money for mental health is missing the point. Were more money thrown at the mental health system it is not likely it would prevent one more death like Shayne’s. It wasn’t the lack of a mental health system that killed Shayne Hay, it was emergency room negligence. If money is to help people like Shayne and his family, this money should go to treating emergencies like emergencies. Shayne felt that he was experiencing an emergency, but apparently the emergency room staff disagreed with this evaluation, otherwise they would have never waited more than 12 hours before getting around to him. If actions speak louder than words, their inaction spoke volumes.

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