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26th July 2015

Mental health services: Getting help, right now

A new survey from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) called ‘Right here, right now’ has revealed an unhelpful response from some health professionals when dealing with people in a mental health crisis. The survey asked for the experiences of 3000 people regarding the responses they had received from health services.

Only 1 in 5 were satisfied with the support they had received. The complaints relating to responses appeared mainly to be about a perceived lack of sympathy and understanding. In fact the responses that service users had received from ambulance staff and the police scored higher in terms of satisfaction. You can read the survey report HERE.

Getting a good response

This got me thinking about the kind of responses people in crisis would want, and the kind of response they could receive. People in mental health crisis situations can present with a range of complex thoughts and feelings and behaviours, and some of these may be very risky. Staff working in emergency general healthcare settings may be very limited in terms of staff time and resources, and may even feel very de-skilled in knowing what to do.

Help in a crisis

So what are the types of response that would be helpful, and why do the ambulance and police score so highly compared to health service staff?

  • They are (obviously) offering a timely response – as an emergency service their response times are measured and monitored.
  • Clinical knowledge of someone's mental health problems is important but it is clear that this expertise is not always the most important factor. Getting someone to listen to you is often more important.
  • They are offering an understanding and empathetic approach. Emergency services staff get training in effective communication to work out best solutions.
  • Being able to make an initial assessment of the situation, and trying to ensure the person gets a more thorough assessment of their situation.
  • Understanding of risk issues – what is the level of risk and how can it be managed?

We have to be realistic about the availability of 24 hour mental health services and their ability to offer a comprehensive response to everyone in crisis. That has to be part of the response – being honest about what can be done now, and what can be done later in terms of help and support. We have to remember what is important to the person in crisis. There is much that can be learnt from this survey.

David Beckingham – QCS Expert Mental Health Contributor

Topics: Mental Health

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