Where I live we have a mental health crisis line. It was recently reviewed as our Trust felt like it was used incorrectly at times. It clearly makes sense to review and improve things, but I am not sure how helpful the changes are to service users in distress. Having used the line a couple of times in the past I’ve not found it that helpful, so haven’t paid much attention to the changes. The suggestion to phone the crisis line number if in crisis outside of our recovery team hours (8-8pm) however is within my crisis plan. I’ve also been in quite a bit of distress recently and the advice has been reiterated in person.
Last night (by the time I post this it probably won’t have been last night) I found myself in such distress. I have an eating disorder and hadn’t really eaten anything all week. I’d been busy all day trying to keep my mind distracted, the day culminating in a community singing group which completely broke my physical health, I think my blood sugar had dropped and I was pretty much at the point of collapse when I arrived home. I had no choice but to eat something, which then triggered an out pouring of emotions, feelings of shame and guilt, which ended with me being sick and wanting to get everything out of me. I kept trying to stop myself but couldn’t, I was experiencing chest pains and was in severe emotional distress. The thoughts in my head were telling me they’d had enough of this and to go to the bedroom and end it all by jumping out the window. The small quiet voice in my head was telling me to get help, my partner and Mum were both not around and I was at risk. I eventually relented and called the crisis line, I selected the option that I was supported by recovery services and received a message saying to call them between 8-8pm the next day or to call the crisis team number (which I had done already) So I called back and didn’t press the recovery team option, I hold for what feels like an eternity and eventually give up. When I become more distressed I try one last time and after again holding I receive an automated service message saying no-one is available to answer and the call is cut off. Despite feeling so physically and mentally unwell I don’t feel I can call 999, I don’t want to trouble anyone or waste anyone’s time, I am not able to make rational decisions. Thankfully my partner returns home.
My partner is so concerned he then calls the crisis line, who advise they can’t help him and they will get the recovery team to call in the morning. There is no advice in terms of getting my physical health checked or what to do if things get worse during the night. Post call my partner is able to calm me down enough to get me to drink a re hydration drink, I take a glucose tablet and he makes sure I have warmed up (hot water bottle/duvet) so my blood pressure returns a bit more to normal. I am not sure what would have had happened had he not returned home, would I have been able to take control? Perhaps we were calling the crisis line unnecessarily, I am not sure? I felt like I was in crisis at the time and was unable to think rationally. To me it would make sense to review people’s crisis plans and take out the option to call as it’s clearly only a service there for people not already under recovery teams. By having it as an unsupportive option it has the potential to cause more confusion and distress which is exactly what is not needed in a crisis. By having the illusion of a crisis service it also makes service users look bad when they attend A and E for support – questions in the heads of staff ‘why didn’t they use the crisis service listed in their plan’? Some openness and transparency is clearly needed so everyone knows where they stand.