"Ambulance 999 did not know about crisis mental health services"
About: London Ambulance Service NHS Trust London Ambulance Service NHS Trust London SE1 8SD
Posted by Lavinia MMH (as ),
I received a call from someone I knew had been sectioned by mental health service for suicide attempt just a month previously. He called to 'say good bye' and informed me he had taken an overdose of valium. He was intoxicated and told me he was at his home, but would not give the address. I called London ambulance, informed them I knew he lived in Earls Court region of London but did not have his full address. The operator said they needed an address or a number and we tried a few numbers I had but because he had not ever called the ambulance service himself, they had no record of his number and/or corresponding address. So the minutes were ticking and I did not know if he is dying of an overdose. I advised the operator that he is known to mental health services and suggested they could the mental health crisis team of the CNWL Mental Health Trust to locate his details. The operator said she didn't know about any mental health crisis service (there is one) when I asked her to speak to her manager and find the name because here is such a service she left me on hold (minutes ticking away) then came back on the line to say they think there is a crisis service service but they didn't have the number. She had kept me on the line for 14 minutes during which time I did not know if my friend was dying from an overdose. The operator was not unkind but didn't seem too rushed nor concerned and I asked her to raise this as an incident as he could be dying. She said I needed to raise the incident and asked me to write down they bustier complaints number. I said I'd rather not because my friends might be dying of an overdose and I need to use my phone (and time) to help him. So I googled the NWL mental health crisis team, found their number, called them ...on hold for a few minutes but when I got through to someone they had his details on record and took over the situation.
Lucky that I knew about this crisis service, but what happens for other people who get a call from a suicidal family member or friend? Their first point of call will be the ambulance service to try get help to the loved one but like me they might not always know the person's address (people often deteriorate and isolate in the months prior to the decision to take their life).
The ambulance should immediately link up (or at least consider the link up) with local mental health services. London ambulance did not even know there is a mental health crisis line.
It is sad that people think its ok that someone in mental health crisis don't 'deserve' an ambulance or emergency help. 'They did it to themselves' is a common response to self harm but many suicide attempts often do succeed after a few tries. Not a wonder that the rate of completed suicide is increasing.