A few months ago I attempted to kill myself. I won’t go into the specifics, but the basics are I ended up walking down a dual carriageway late at night after taking an overdose. Luckily for me, a police crew found me and took me to the hospital. This was not the first time I had tried to take my life, but this is the first time the police got involved. The differences between my treatment are vast and, frankly, unacceptable.
When I took an overdose a few months prior, a friend of mine took me to the same hospital. After they had checked my blood, put me on a drip because I was dehydrated and were satisfied I was stable, they took me to see the mental health team. After a long conversation about my history of depression and self-harm, they sent me home with no follow-up plan, no advice on how to get help and no concern for my well-being. This was incredibly upsetting. I felt like even after attempting to take my own life I still wasn’t a “severe” enough case to get help. My mental health deteriorated, and it comes as no surprise that I attempted to take my life again only a few months later.
When the police took me to the hospital this time around, I was checked as soon as I could be, and when my blood came back I was seen by a doctor, who not only explained to me what they had checked my blood for (something I had not been told the last time I was in hospital), he also asked me what had led me to take the overdose and what my plan was when I left the hospital. This is something even the mental health team hadn’t asked me, and it actually felt like he cared for my safety. He then personally took me to the waiting area for the mental health team. Before I was seen by the mental health team (the wait was a few hours), he came back and asked me how I was feeling now, whether he could get me anything and if my plans for when I left the hospital had changed.
He didn’t have to do this — he did it because he clearly cared for my safety, something that was very encouraging to see. When I was eventually seen by the mental health team, after they asked the typical questions about my history, they also explained the options for the treatment I could receive once I left the hospital. We came to the conclusion that I would be referred to the urgent care and assessment team, and a meeting was set up for the next morning.
The differences between my treatment are shocking. Although I am so grateful I am now receiving treatment and on my road to recovery, it angers me that it took the police getting involved for anything to be done. The circumstances of my attempts were the same after all — an overdose, leading to blood tests, leading to a discussion with the mental health team and then discharge. But if I had been given these high levels of care and treatment the first time around, the likelihood of my second attempt would have been reduced significantly.
I am lucky that I managed to get this treatment. I now have a local community nurse who sees me every day, my meds have been restricted so I no longer have access to large quantities of pills so I can’t (as easily) try again and I get phone calls from a local police officer who checks in on me every other day, just to see how I am. I am now so much more optimistic when I think about my future, and this is the first time in over a year I can honestly say I want to get better and I’m willing to try.
I want to thank the officers who picked me up and cared for me, but this story is about more than a thank you. I want to highlight how unequal treatment can be when you seek help for a mental health problem. If we all received the levels of treatment I received when these particular police were overseeing it, I truly believe a lot more of us would make progress in our recoveries. Although budgets may be limited, surely it is cheaper to give people proper treatment the first time around, rather than wait until their second, third or fourth attempt to actually give them the help they need. Why should the police have to get involved for someone to be taken seriously?
What do you think? Share your own story about police involvement in suicide attempts in the comments below.
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Author: Cammie Merwin