Despite conveying suicidal thoughts to medical staff, people have been cleared from the QEII hospital’s emergency department and later committed suicide.
“That has happened, yes,” Dr. Curt Peters, an inpatient psychiatrist at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, said. He added that he didn’t have statistics for these kind of cases.
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“People have come to the emergency department, expressed that type of concern and, as a result of the assessment, still sent home. Partly, it may be that they’ve chosen not to engage in the treatment that’s offered for whatever reason.”
There is renewed interest in mental health care at the department after a woman went public on Tuesday with concerns about her friend’s suicide risk assessment.
The friend, who doesn’t want to be identified, said she is suicidal but is not being admitted for treatment. She’s now staying with friends who are making sure she doesn’t harm herself.
“We have a lot of patients that present to our emergency department expressing that type of hopelessness or even suicidality,” Peters said.
Following a medical clearance, the emergency physician determines if the patient needs to be consulted by psychiatric emergency service staff.
Each patient fills in an assessment form and the clinician determines suicide risk, which subsequently determines if admission or another plan is necessary.
“The assessment itself is intended to be therapeutic and a lot of times that’s enough, together with a follow-up plan, to have a patient feel like they’re ready to go home,” Peters said.
Decisions also factor in the patient’s history.
“If a patient is well known, it might be a case where help has been offered, admission to hospital may not have been of benefit in the past,” Peters said.
There are treatment options available, including through the Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team, Urgent Care Centre, and Community Mental Health Services, he added.