They always tell you it’s an option, yet most of us don’t even think about it. When it comes down to suicidal ideation, you have a few options: wait it out, do it, or make your way to the emergency room to stay safe. Yet, this idea is terrifying. How do you make your way to the emergency room, sit there looking perfectly fine and expect to be taken seriously? I’ve done it before and while it is always terrifying at first, going to the hospital for emotional distress is like going in for a twisted ankle. It might get uncomfortable but, ultimately, you will be treated.

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Pack a bag
The ER is unpredictable. Some days, it’s just a couple of people with colds and other times, it seems like the whole world turned up. Expect the unexpected. Double-check your wallet for your health card and emergency money. If you’re forgetful, bringing along all your current medication can make the process easier. You might wait for a while so don’t hesitate to bring a book, an extra sweater or whatever you may need to feel as comfortable as possible.

Ask someone for support
You may tell yourself that you can handle it yourself but having a friend is needed when doing something as scary as asking for help. Enlist someone who you can lean on and trust that they will respect your privacy. They will be helpful if you need a ride, some food or a second opinion. If you have no one to accompany you to the hospital and don’t feel safe enough to go alone, don’t hesitate to call 911.

Stay open
In most hospitals, the first thing you’ll do is wait for triage. Triage is when you’ll be meeting with first healthcare professional to give your personal details, medical history and reason for coming to the ER. You may be shy but it helps to tell the people you talk to everything you know. Remain honest and patient, no one is there to judge.

Make a choice
From my experience, the hospital will never let you leave without telling you what your options are. I had the choice to be referred to a psychiatrist and receive resources for the next time I’m in distress. If needed, the option to be admitted into the hospital may be open to you. Don’t be afraid to demand a treatment plan better suited for your needs and urgency. However, understand that at a time where you may be a threat to yourself, heading home may not be the best option.

And for next time?
Having a safety plan can be useful in times of distress. This includes a list of your warning signs, coping strategies, distractions, and emergency contacts. Keeping your environment safe by safekeeping your medication, for example, minimizes the chances of you hurting yourself. At the end of your safety plan, you should write one thing that is worth living for. Hold on to it, and when you feel suicidal again, go through the list. Hopefully, you’ll feel better before having to go to the ER.

About Fatou Balde

Fatou Balde is a floater in life, currently dipping her toes in communications and psychology to see what she might pursue as a career. She's been depressed since 12, and desperately trying to get better since 16.

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