This article may contain references to suicide, self-harm, and violence. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please call the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) 24-hour helpline at 6389 2222, or visit the emergency department of your nearest hospital.
I was diagnosed with emotionally-unstable personality disorder (EUPD), depression and anxiety in early 2015. Since then, I’ve been looked after by a competent team of psychiatrist, psychologists and counsellors at Changi General Hospital (CGH).
This is my recount of what it was like to seek emergency care for a mental health crisis in October 2017.
A Total Breakdown
Before I made the decision to visit the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department of CGH, I struggled for days with my aggressive urges to stab myself or a loved one.
Instances of paranoia and psychosis – illusions whereby I was hearing voices and seeing stealthy movements around me – also induced a sense of self-doubt as to what was reality.
I was afraid of myself, and no longer trusted myself to make day-to-day decisions.
“I think I am having a mental breakdown,” I told a nurse at the A&E.
“I have this strong urge to stab myself or someone,” I revealed in the triage.
I was then promptly seen by a doctor, where he prescribed medication to calm me down while I was monitored in the observation ward.
I was surprised and felt like a criminal. Perhaps this is what it feels like for others as well who have experienced a mental health crisis at some point – those of us who fight ourselves against suicidal thoughts and attempts, self-harming tendencies or potential aggression to others.
I did not realise the perceived severity of my situation had I not come here to ask for help.
The Safe Place
IMH can seem like an alienating place to many, but as I sat in the waiting area waiting to be assessed by a doctor, it began to feel like a sanctuary.
The administration process of my hospital stay felt like an imprisonment – my personal belongings, such as my wallet, phone, jewellery, watch, and even my glasses – anything that could potentially be used as a weapon to hurt myself or others were kept away.
This was necessary to keep me safe for the time being.
It sounds intimidating, but it is no different from how a doctor would restrict a patient from eating if they believe that surgery may be necessary. Having the constant monitoring and assurance of the nurses reminded me that I was well-taken care of.
I never felt judged nor stigmatized during the few days at IMH. The nurses, doctors and social workers were respectful and attentive to my needs. My husband was also informed of programmes organized by the hospital to support caregivers in understanding loved ones with mental illnesses, and given advice on how I could continue to receive support at home.
Road to Recovery
It was a bittersweet moment when I was given the green light for discharge. Having my personal belongings returned to me was liberating, but I also wondered if extending my stay would be more helpful towards my recovery albeit the restrictions.
I experienced several more mental health emergencies and was warded at IMH following this incident. Since then, I took my medications more seriously, and took ownership of my therapy and counselling sessions.
Where I am today in my mental health recovery is a stark difference from the first day when I got help at CGH, when I was desperate to find out what was wrong with me.
Recovery is different for everyone, and you do not have to suffer in silence. Help is always available, be it in the form of helplines, or walking into the A&E department of any hospital.
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