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Experts by experience

The number of Londoner’s experiencing mental health crises is continuing to increase with section 136 detentions increasing by 19% in the last two years.The input by individuals who have experienced crisis care in London has been crucial to the development of London’s section 136 pathway and health based place of safety specification. We have worked with over 300 Londoners who have experienced mental illness and their carers, and staff from our crisis care partner organisations (London’s police forces, London Ambulance Service, local authorities and NHS hospital trusts and mental health trusts). 

Why crisis care is so important

An expert by experience shares their story:

“I was at home and I started to feel extremely agitated and was having very serious suicidal thoughts. I phoned my crisis team but I could barely speak, I felt cold and numb inside. I put the phone down, packed my bags, grabbed my dog and jumped on a train to get as far away as possible.  I didn’t get very far. At the next station three police officers got on the train and I was detained under section 136. Three officers sat with me at the train station while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. My main concern was my dog, I was extremely anxious, distressed, and worried about who would care for my dog but a police officer kindly phoned my friend to come and collect her, the police officers also agreed to look after her in the meantime which was really reassuring.

When I finally arrived at the place of safety for an assessment it was closed, I was waiting ages with officers outside the door. After a while a nurse came and opened up the door and I wasn’t even acknowledged. No one said hello to me or reassured me, I was made to feel like I was wasting the nurse’s time.

The experience got worse when I was dumped alone in a cold room. No one talked to me for hours and hours. I was alone and scared. I am a diabetic but no one asked about my medication or medical history. Occasionally a member of security would look through the window; it was like being in a goldfish bowl. When the staff did come and see me I was made to feel like there were better things they could be doing on the ward. My crisis just got worse and worse in a place where I was supposed to be cared for. After I had my mental health assessment the staff decided to discharge me. I wasn’t involved in any discussion about my care, I was never asked any questions, and I just felt like they wanted to get me out the door as quickly as possible. At that point I just wanted to get away from the place as quickly as possible but I was worried I might fall into crisis again as I had no support.

If this was my first experience of being detained under section 136 I would have lost trust in health staff and services and I would have been reluctant to seek help again.  A couple of days later I called the nurse from the crisis team to thank her for alerting the police, she saved my life.”

Why health based places of safety are so important

An expert by experience shares their story:

“They kept me waiting an awfully long time, and I slipped back into psychosis before they had assessed me, which looking back was very frightening. I remember barricading myself in the hospital waiting room, not letting anybody in and piling cushions up because I was so afraid of them. I think somebody should have initiated some kind of sedation earlier on, rather than subjecting me to that because it was from when I was arrested at 8 o’clock in the morning and I didn’t get any treatment until about 4 or 5 in the afternoon and I was obviously slipping in and out, they could see it. They could see when I was in the place of safety, they could see that I was ill. I remember standing up and shouting. What was going on in my head was terrible, absolutely terrible. I remember after my second attack, the GP who came to see me gave me Valium, which controlled me until I came to hospital, so he assessed the need for sedation, but the hospital didn’t engage with that at all. So thinking about that, I’m a bit annoyed that they let the cycles go on so long.”

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