"Acute staff and Mental Health Care"

About: St James's University Hospital / Accident and emergency

(as the patient),

Having been very unwell these past 8 months with depression I have taken a number of overdoses to sedate myself from the extreme distress. This has led to multiple admissions via A&E to medical wards at St James's Hospital, Leeds. This is my first experience of mental health problems and it has led to hopelessness, fear, confusion, shame, guilt and despair. I have found the degree of distress incredibly difficult to manage especially as I have always been very controlled emotionally and functioned to a high level.

To be admitted in such a degree of distress feels hugely shameful and has led to even more distress as others have then witnessed my despair. Throughout the admissions there has rarely been any clinical staff apart from some of the paramedics and the self harm team who have shown any degree of care, kindness or compassion.

The majority of the clinical staff have done the bare minimum to ensure I am ok, have not tried to ease the distress, have not asked if I am ok or offered support. I have been made to feel increasingly stigmatised and one Dr told me I was wasting their medical bed.

I am dismayed to see that in the realms of medical care at a renowned hospital the attitudes of general nursing and medical staff still remains one of judgement and misunderstanding. To be in such distress is the most frightening experience one can endure. There is so much confusion, despair, fear and isolation when struggling with a mental health problem.

It would be a huge step forward if acute staff were taught how to care for those patients who attend after overdosing to minimise distress and shame to help these patients believe that someone does care about their admission and wants to offer care to help them in their recovery.

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Response from Val Cole, Patient Experience Team, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

The Urgent Care Management Team are disappointed at your experience of our A&E department. if you wish to contact the Matron direct or alternatively contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) with your details we can look into your specific issue in more detail and respond. You can contact PALS on 0113 2067168 or email patient.relations@leedsth.nhs.uk

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Response from Kerri Jones, Co-founder & Manager, No Secrets

Hi Minnie13,

Sorry to hear about your negative experiences.

For people who regularly overdose or self harm in other ways, it's common to be faced with such problems unfortunately, due to a number of reasons.

Some of the reasons can include lack of understanding (through lack of training), people not knowing how to react, wards or departments being understaffed etc.

Often, being treated in this way will add to your distress, as you said, and can also make people reluctant to seek medical attention in future instances.

I am wondering if you have the support of your local mental health trust, and if not, it may be worth speaking to your GP to ask for a referral to be assessed. I may be wrong, but it sounds to me that you are being treated for each separate occasion, but not for the underlying problems that are making you feel so low. Tackling these issues would hopefully reduce or stop the overdosing.

We work in the North West, however we offer email support to anybody. Please contact me if this is something you feel would be helpful to you - we support anybody affected by self-harm or self-poisoning.

It may also be worth taking a look at the NICE (National Institute for health and Care Excellence) guidance on self-harm. NICE provide guidelines on various health and mental health problems, to health and social care staff, in order to encourage the highest possible standard of care, and to ensure everybody is receiving the correct treatment and support. You can go to the NICE website and search Self-Harm and it will bring up various documents. There are two guidance documents on self-harm. One is CG16 - The Short Term management of Self-Harm. The other is CG133 - Longer Term treatment and management of self-harm. CG13 applies more to A&E staff and acute medical care. CG133 applies more to secondary mental health services that may provide therapy etc.

I hope you manage to get the support you deserve and that you start to feel better soon. If you'd like to contact me, my email address is kjones@no-secrets.org.uk

Take care

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