“I’m pretty much at peace,” says Ryan, who is in his mid-30s, and says he was the only person who had ever treated him.
“I was the one who was really trying to help him with the depression.”
But Ryan says he didn’t have any medical training and, at his own request, he was put on a drug that was prescribed to people who had suicidal thoughts.
The drug made him think he was dying.
“They put me on it because I was suicidal,” he says.
“It was just to keep me alive.
And I didn’t know that I was actually dying, so they had to keep the doctor on the hook.”
In the end, Ryan said, he ended up on a hospital ventilator for seven days and had to be revived by other doctors, because he couldn’t breathe.
Ryan was put into isolation for a month and then sent back to his home in the Vancouver suburb of North Vancouver.
The experience was “kind of devastating,” he recalls.
He lost his job and had his life turned upside down.
“But I felt that I had no other choice.”
Ryan says when he went to the emergency room for his second time, he got the same response.
“The only reason they said I was alive was because I said I had suicidal tendencies,” he said.
“And I was told to leave.”
Ryan went back to work the next day and had another appointment with the same doctor, who again recommended another course of medication.
Ryan says after about a week, he went back for another visit, and again was told that he had “resisted treatment.”
Ryan was prescribed another medication and told to go home, to wait for the next doctor.
But the next morning, the next doctors appointment was cancelled.
And then he was told by another doctor, this time an ENT specialist, that he was going to have to go in for a spinal tap.
Ryan felt his life was over.
He says he felt that doctors were treating him for depression and that he should go home and not try to commit suicide.
Ryan’s story is a warning to anyone thinking about going to the ER to seek help.
“In the beginning, I was pretty much on drugs,” he explains.
“Even though I was taking medication, I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing to myself.
And there was just no way to make me stop.”
Ryan’s situation is common.
According to a 2014 report by the American College of Emergency Physicians, the U.S. emergency room has the most ER visits of any hospital, with an average of 5,600 visits per day.
And more than two-thirds of ER visits are for people who have not sought treatment for suicidal thoughts, according to the American Association of Emergency Medical Directors.
But because people who seek treatment for suicide are often given less help and more medications, they often end up with worse outcomes, according in part to the University of Michigan School of Medicine.
“Our experience is that many people end up having a lot of problems that may be caused by the medication, and they end up getting worse outcomes,” says Dr. Mark J. Schaeffer, the president and CEO of the emergency department at the University Hospital of San Diego.
“So we’ve been looking at the fact that this is a problem in emergency medicine.”
Ryan is not alone in having had his treatment delayed, or worse.
The National Center for Emergency Medicine found in a 2016 study that “over a third” of emergency room patients had their medication prescribed more than 10 days in advance.
And while there have been no confirmed cases of suicide in emergency rooms in Canada, emergency departments across the country have reported similar problems.
In response, the Canadian Association of EMS Physicians and the National Association of Health Care Organizations have called on the government to mandate that the government require that emergency departments get to a “one-day” limit on the amount of medications a patient is given at a time.
“We need to be able to get patients into the emergency services system at a certain time, and we need to have the capability to have access to the medication,” says Mark Bouchard, the association’s executive director.
He and his organization have also written a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asking him to review the requirement and to support the creation of a national prescription monitoring system.
A national monitoring system would allow health-care professionals to track all prescriptions received at emergency departments.
In the meantime, Ryan is living in limbo.
He has lost his car, his job, and he says he can’t afford a lawyer.
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