What to Expect from the Emergency Department

For many the thought of going to the emergency department is scary, especially when we are not sure what to expect. When you first arrive in the emergency room you will have to check yourself in and let them know you are there. Tell them upon check in that you are “acutely suicidal”. This lets them know that they need to act to keep you safe.

The goal of the emergency department will be to stabilize you medically and emotionally and make recommendations for further support and treatment.

The role of the emergency department is to:

  • Provide a place of safety
  • Conduct an assessment of your situation
  • Provide medical management if necessary
  • Provide crisis intervention
  • Refer to a mental health professional
  • Make recommendations to you, your family and other supports for further care

You can expect your assessment to include:

  • Your current circumstances
  • Any previous suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Details of any plans for suicide
  • Any potential threat to others
  • Your past medical history
  • Your experience with mental health
  • Any current or past substance use
  • Are you currently or have you previously been involved with any community supports
  • What are your current support systems i.e.: family, friends, work, school, community
  • They may also want to speak with those who have accompanied you to the emergency department

This is an opportunity for you to talk about what has happened that has brought you to the point you are thinking about suicide. (see “25 Benefits of Talking”) I recognize the weight of what you are feeling and hope you will be as open and honest as you can.

Before being released from the emergency department you should have an understanding of any recommendations for further care and follow-up, medications, contact information for support services such as 24 hour helplines and outpatient services and a plan to stay safe.

At times the emergency department may facilitate admission to the hospital if the physician believes further psychiatric observation, care and treatment is necessary. If the physician believes admitting you for further observation, care and treatment is necessary and you do not consent, the physician may admit you without your consent for a period of up to 72 hours only if you meet the criteria under the Mental Health Act.

The role of hospitalization is to:

  • Conduct further assessment
  • Provide a safe, secure environment
  • Acute treatment of a mental health condition
  • Acute treatment of multiple medical conditions
  • Crisis intervention
  • Mobilize a support network

The idea of being admitted without your consent can be scary; however, hospitalization and its role can be thought of in the same way as admittance to an intensive care unit for further medical monitoring and treatment after being stabilized in the emergency department. In both situations the goal is to get the best outcome possible for you.