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People with suicidal thoughts told to 'have a bath'

Healthcare professionals are turning away people with "urgent" mental health issues for not being "ill enough" to qualify for help, it is claimed.

Up to 10 "avoidable suicides" have occurred due to patients being denied access to hospitals because of bed shortages and admissions policies, a psychiatrist told mental health charity Mind.

Crisis help line operators also told callers speaking of suicidal thoughts to have a warm bath, hot drink or go for a walk.

An independent inquiry Listening to Experience released by Mind revealed problems with inpatient hospitals and community crisis teams resulting in people struggling to get help, staffing problems, "poor" quality care environments and not enough treatment provided to help people recover.

"Mental health crises need urgent treatment, yet our investigation found that far from receiving the instant, 24-7 response we expect for physical health emergencies, people experiencing mental health emergencies can be faced with long waits, poor quality care and in some cases are unable to access help at all," said Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind.

"The distressing and highly sensitive nature of mental health crisis means that it is even more important that people are given a seamless emergency response, safe environments and that staff have the time to give them care and emotional support."

The charity has put forward a number of recommendations to improve mental health services and has called for a ban on NHS staff using 'face down' restraint against patients, suggesting the practice can lead to "avoidable deaths".

Commissioners have also been called upon to expand the range of crisis services available to allow people to "self-refer", rather than having to wait until their mental health gets "bad enough" for them to meet "eligibility thresholds".

Such services could include: crisis houses, host families, service user led crisis services, and retreats.