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Should You Visit the ER for a Mental Health Emergency?



You may feel completely alone when experiencing a mental health crisis. The situation may seem even direr if you're by yourself or when your therapist's office is closed, such as late at night, on the weekend, or on holidays.

The first thing you might do if something like this happens is to consider whether or not to endure it - or if it's serious enough to seek medical attention immediately.

However, you can go to the emergency room (ER) for immediate help in mental health emergencies. In fact, visits to the ER for mental health crises are rising. At least 6% of adult ER visits are due to mental health complaints, as well as 7% of pediatric visits. Moreover, Indiana University researchers found that about 45% of patients who visit emergency departments for physical injuries and ailments also have mental health problems and substance abuse problems.

In general, mental health conditions have increased. This was especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2021. So, if you feel panicky and unable to function, or if you think you might hurt yourself or someone else, you should head to the emergency room immediately.

Mental Health Problems that Require a Visit to an ER

Although there are many mental health problems that can lead to ER visits, several are very common. A few of them are:

It's important to note that this list isn't exhaustive. In all cases, seeking care is critical if you feel your safety is in danger, if you are having severe symptoms, or think you might be experiencing psychosis.

When to Visit an Emergency Room

If you are worried about your safety due to mental health issues, you should seek medical attention in an emergency room. For instance, if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or committing suicide, you should go to an emergency room right away. In order to determine whether you need to visit the emergency room, check out the following symptoms.

  • Paranoia

  • Mania

  • Delusions

  • Visual/auditory hallucinations

  • Severe insomnia

  • Confusion

  • Aggression

  • Severe medication side effects

  • OCD symptoms

Despite the fact that a trip to the ER seems too much, it's helpful. It is common for ERs to be busy, loud, chaotic, and queues to be long at times. In spite of these odds, you can get instant assistance.

The good news is that ERs are readily available in most regions, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding one near you. A good emergency room makes you feel comfortable during your visit. Your stay is made worthwhile as they provide you with food and drinks while seeking a solution to your problems.

What to Expect in the Emergency Room

Emergency rooms are designed to deal with all kinds of emergencies, and they put people's lives first. Due to this, the environment may seem chaotic and noisy, so be prepared. It's likely that the staff will ask you some uncomfortable questions. To receive the help you need, however, it's important that you answer honestly.

Among the questions they'll ask you are:

  • The symptoms you are currently experiencing

  • When your symptoms began

  • A history of your mental health

  • Medical diagnoses that are relevant

  • Insurance

Sometimes, you will be sent to a mental health professional after leaving the emergency room. Other times, you might be admitted to a hospital or transferred to a facility that can offer better care.

You may spend hours in the emergency room. There is even a possibility that you will spend a few days in the hospital. In the event that hospital staff believes you pose a danger to yourself, they may temporarily confiscate any items you might use to harm yourself, so it would be best if you left them at home.

For mental health emergencies, here's what you should bring and wear to the ER.

  • Wear comfortable clothing and slip-on shoes.

  • Keeping yourself entertained with a book or tablet

  • Chargers for phones or computers

  • A pair of headphones and soothing music

After you've been discharged from the hospital, follow up on your mental health. A mental health professional can help you develop a plan to ensure continued improvement, as well as a plan to deal with another mental health emergency.

Getting Your Loved Ones Involved

Take a friend or family member with you when you go to the ER if possible. You will need to explain why you're there right away, so you might find it easier to bring someone who can help get the conversation started when you arrive. A companion will be useful since you will likely have to wait for a long time.

Additionally, having an advocate who speaks on your behalf, contacts other family members when necessary, collects things from home, and makes arrangements for addressing home issues, such as feeding pets and arranging childcare, is helpful.

When you choose to allow your loved ones to help you, they can do a lot. In addition to bringing food to your family, people may be able to visit you, or they may even play online games with you. Being able to pass the time with these small gestures is a great way to feel more connected to those who care about you.

The ER Isn't the Only Option

In times of mental health crisis, going to the ER can feel intimidating. As such, when you need mental health help, there are other options besides going to the emergency room:

  • Crisis lines. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, for example, is available to help 24/7. They can be reached at 800-273-8255.

  • Mobile crisis teams. A prescreening evaluation can be conducted by these teams. In addition, they can assist with the arrangement of inpatient care and programs in the community.

  • Walk-in services. A clinic or urgent care center provides crisis counseling in a less imposing setting than a hospital. When necessary, they may suggest hospitalization.

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