What to expect if you go to A&E... (Part 2)

What to expect if you go to A&E because of self-harm or feeling suicidal

Joy is a youth worker specialising in supporting young people when they are in A&E because of mental health issues or emotional crisis. This is part two of her blog.

Okay, here goes with Joy’s top tips for a helpful chat with the mental health professional…

  1. Think ahead: while you’re waiting, think through what are they key things you feel are important to communicate. Perhaps write those things down or if you have someone with you could talk it through with them.  
  2. Be open and honest: Try not to second guess what they will think if you say a certain thing, just answer questions honestly and say how you feel rather than thinking about any potential outcomes.
  3. Speak up about what you need: be proactive in the conversation, it’s totally all for your benefit so be sure to bring up anything important if it’s not been covered. If you have ideas about what support you’d find useful going forward then suggest it.

You may feel you want to have a family member, friend or other supportive adult with you during the assessment and this is usually fine, don’t be afraid to ask. Equally, if you’d prefer it to be just you that’s fine too, just let one of the nurses know or tell the mental health professional who you’ll be speaking with.

After this meeting, there will be some decisions made about when you should be discharged and where you should go. In most cases, the decision will be made that you can go home with the support of your family and follow up from a community mental health team. In some situations, other arrangements will need to be made if, for example, you’re not safe at home, or further assessment or treatment is needed.  

Once the medical team are happy that you’re ‘medically fit’ to leave and the mental health team have done their assessment and put a support plan in place you’ll be good to go...

After hospital…

You should hear from the community mental health team within a week or so of leaving hospital but you can ring them sooner if you need more support or if they’ve not called you. The most important thing is to listen to what your mind and body need. You’ll likely be tired so take time to rest. Having a bit of a routine is helpful so try to do something each day, even if it’s just going out for a short walk, and try to keep eating and sleeping at regular times. If you normally take medication keep going with that too.  Make the most of all the support that’s available to you – from friends and family and from professionals. If there’s anything that makes you reluctant to accept support from professionals, it’s best to air your concerns. Did you know you can ask for a different Care Coordinator / Therapist if you feel that relationship is really not working. It’s also worth looking up other local stuff like youth groups, sports clubs, opportunities for volunteering, youth counselling etc. There’s lots out there and you might just find something that’ll give you chance to make some new friends, have fun, or get support that makes a difference and helps you keep going.

It can feel like having been to hospital because of an emotional/mental health crisis means you’ve hit rock bottom but please don’t be discouraged. Take it as a sign that things need to change and work with those around you to make those changes happen. Speaking personally, when I was a teenager I struggled with these issues and, at times I felt like everything was hopeless and there was no point in carrying on, it was all just too hard. But let me tell you, sticking with it is totally worth it and you can do it. Take each small step forward as a victory and celebrate it and even if you take a couple of steps back it’s okay, don’t beat yourself up, just press on again.

I hope this has given you a helpful insight that will mean you can open up and get the help you need if you find yourself in A&E. Take care and remember that no situation is EVER hopeless.  


Alumina is a free, online 7 week course for young people struggling with self-harm. Each course has up to 8 young people, all accessing the sessions from their own phones, tablets or laptops across the UK. The courses take place on different evenings of the week and are run by friendly, trained counsellors and volunteer youth workers. You don’t need an adult to refer you or sign you up, and no-one will see or hear you during the sessions – you’ll just join in via the chatbox. We want to help you to find your next steps towards recovery, wherever you are on your journey.

Find out more