People are more willing to seek treatment with the de-stigmatization of mental health in recent years of the pandemic. Clinics are doing everything they can to reach out to those in need. But what happens if you have a mental health crisis and need urgent help? What should you expect when you visit an emergency room (ER)?
Although it doesn’t get the attention it deserves, mental health should carry the same weight as physical health, especially in times of crisis. You should visit the emergency room if you have one and need immediate support.
Of course, making a mental health emergency visit is no light decision. It can be an overwhelming ordeal and one that might feel even more challenging during the coronavirus pandemic. While you may encounter more steps and tighter regulations, knowing what to expect is crucial, as that can ease tensions.
The COVID pandemic has changed the ER experience for the foreseeable future.
During the onset of the pandemic, most ERs experienced an expected dip in visitations because people feared getting infected. Although these worries were justified, healthcare facilities nationwide took extreme cautions. They put numerous measures in place to curb the spread of Covid-19 in their facilities and ensure the safety of patients and staff.
The new practices and regulations hospitals put in place for COVID purposes are crucial. Still, for patients, the experience of visiting an ER may feel different from the pre-pandemic era. The good news is that patients who have recently had a positive Covid-19 test or currently showing symptoms will be asked not to come.
All participating hospitals have isolated coronavirus units, so you will not share waiting rooms, cafeterias, and other common spaces with Covid-19 patients. Although wearing masks is now optional for more than 90% of the nation from early March, most hospitals still require everyone to mask up indoors within their buildings.
Most healthcare centers have reorganized their emergency departments, waiting rooms, and shared spaces to allow for proper social distancing. You might also spot sanitation stations throughout most hospitals, helping patients, clinicians, and staff members clean their hands and sanitize as often as possible.
Beyond mandatory masking and upped cleaning routines, here are notable things you should expect when you go to the ER for a mental health emergency or treatment.
– Thorough pre-check-in screening
Expect to undergo thorough screening before stepping inside the emergency department. Some hospitals have dropped this policy by lifting coronavirus mandates and plummeting cases across the country.
Be that as it may, hospitals are places that take a proactive approach to care delivery. They screen all patients upon arrival to isolate those with Covid-19. Even patients with time-sensitive symptoms like stroke and heart attack during the pandemic’s peak require screening for Covid-19.
Expect your temperature to be taken and asked if you’ve had any telltale symptoms of Covid-19 (loss of smell, taste, etc.) If you have the virus, expect the transfer to an isolated unit among patients without Covid-19.
– Visitor restriction
You should expect to enter the emergency department alone, although this depends on the healthcare center and its rules. At the same time, not a universal thing, some hospitals restrict visitors to curb the spread of coronavirus. So you can end up in the ER alone, even if you come with your friend, coworker, or loved one.
However, this might be bad news for most people who require the support of their loved ones to better cope with their mental health challenges. Therefore, it may be best to wait and go to private practices if you’re able to, like Geode Health, which offers services around the country.
Of course, you can video-call, chat, or telephone them once admitted if you still wish to get their support.
– Longer wait times
Some hospitals have returned to normalcy, while others haven’t. Don’t forget that ERs are well-documented for being hectic. You might have to wait a couple of hours or longer before getting help.
It’ll depend on the assessment of the ER staff, but you can expect to stay in the hospital for several days. Wear comfy clothing and bring your smartphone, tablet, or book (and charger) to help you kill time.
– A bit of paperwork
If you have visited an ER before, you know the drill. First, you must fill out some paperwork for identification and administrative purposes. Then, you must disclose your medical history, insurance, and other background info.
– Post-check-in screening
Once you’ve checked in, medical staff will carry out a brief screening. This assessment helps in determining the severity of your mental health emergency. You should expect to be told an approximate waiting time before a complete psychiatric evaluation
– Psychiatric evaluation
A psychiatric evaluation will likely be the heart and soul of your ER visit. Expect a team of mental health professionals to conduct a thorough diagnosis before devising a treatment action plan. Suppose they think your safety is a concern. Then, you’ll likely get admitted to the hospital for close monitoring or transferred to a different facility that deals with your particular mental health crisis.
For instance, if you have a wayward alcohol addiction, you may receive a referral to a good rehab center.
Wrapping It Up
After the psychiatric evaluation, the course of action will often boil down to the medical staff’s diagnosis. It may conclude that you need crisis counseling, give you medication, or refer you to a mental health treatment center when you leave the hospital. The doctors might also decide to admit you to their psychiatric unit for a few days.