Add an option for mental health crises to NHS24's helpline

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As a user of mental health services, I am often referred to NHS24's phone number (111) as something to turn to in a crisis - i.e. if I feel a danger to myself or others and cannot cope, particularly during unsociable hours or other times that a GP surgery is closed.

At the beginning of a call to NHS24, when triage options are given to the caller, the addition of a number devoted to mental health-related crises would make a huge difference.

Callers looking for medical help for an infant can press 1. Those looking for emergency dental help can press 3. Why is there no option on the phone menu for mental health-related calls?

Follow-up questions could include whether the caller has harmed or plans to harm themselves; if they are alone; if they have a CPN, and if they are feeling suicidal.

Rather than spend the usual 13+ minutes answering irrelevant medical questions whilst in a heightened emotional state with little self-control, callers could be treated in a way more suited to their state. The situation can often be escalated by call-takers confused by procedures and unable to help. 

Whilst Breathing Space, the Samaritans and similar services are available to offer valuable help to those with low mood or other mental health issues, they are not medically trained or equipped for crisis situations. These helplines are routinely trained to respond to people who feel they are a danger by suggesting the caller hang up and dial 999.

I know I am not alone in feeling that emergency services aren't quite suited to treat my illness, and often can aggravate the situation. There are many stories from myself and thousands of others which prove we just simply do not do enough for mental health patients in Scotland. Being able to get through to the right person on NHS24 could go a long way in preventing the need for emergency services to become involved in mental health crises.



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