In July 2016 we co-hosted two problem-solving Concordat workshops, focussing on emergency care pathways and alternatives to admission.

The latter saw regional co-ordinator for Time to Change, Angela Etherington, who also has lived experience of crisis care, offer insight into what it’s like needing crisis care and the importance of positive attitudes from treatment teams. Here, Angela blogs about the workshop and the experiences she shared there.

The recent problem-solving workshop was a great opportunity for those of us with lived experience of mental health problems, carers and mental health professionals to get together to look at a key area of the Crisis Care Concordat – alternatives to admission. The workshop highlighted good practice and answered many questions. But for me, most importantly, people listened to those of us who have accessed crisis services and those who strive to deliver and commission these services at a local and national level.

I was privileged to have a platform to share some of my experiences – good and bad – of using crisis resolution and home treatment team services over a period of time and with varying outcomes. The aim: what can be learnt from my experiences that may help inform better care for people needing those services now and in the future?

Crucially, the huge impact of how any care is delivered in crisis – and the attitudes, values and humanity of staff from all professions – must be highlighted.

The key human needs of feeling listened to, respected and safe were vital to enable me to stay at home. I always appreciate clear communication and honesty, and I need to have confidence that mental health professionals are competent and skilled, as well as showing sensitivity and compassion.

With hindsight and insight, I am now able to reflect on some very painful, chaotic experiences and now can appreciate that the crisis resolution and home treatment teams were truly acting in my best interests. I find this particularly reassuring as I cannot recognise this when I need these teams’ intervention.

The value of learning, recording and sharing how I would like to be treated in the future in a crisis, as well as contingency planning, form an essential part of my ongoing recovery journey.

Recognising the value of my own risk assessment and respecting the balance between my self-management and unhelpful hypervigilance has also been key in managing my risk outside of hospital. I have a hard copy of my plan, as does my GP, who can share it if and when IT systems do not work collaboratively. My personal role in influencing, devising and trying out these plans to see if they remain viable has been crucial to their success.

With the vast amount of personal and professional experience in the room, I thought it was important to recount how it actually feels to be in need of crisis resolution and home treatment teams.

I’m fortunate, because when I’m well I have people around me to help make calls, I know who to speak to and I have unlimited access to websites, emails and phones. I know too well, however, that trying to navigate and reach the right person in a service with ever-increasing criteria can be overwhelming, and without support people in crisis do literally give up. The pain, fear and cost of human despair far outweigh any rationale for financial constraints.

I want and need to see a high-quality, accessible crisis service where people – both patients and staff – matter, that’s delivered in a time and place without fear of stigma and discrimination. There have been blood, sweat and tears along the way, and not just mine. But I think we’ve made a start…