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NH Editor's Story Highlights Shortage of Psychiatric Beds

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For Roger Carroll, managing editor of The Laconia Daily Sun, writing about his experiences in the New Hampshire mental-health system has prompted an outpouring of community support. (R. Carroll)
For Roger Carroll, managing editor of The Laconia Daily Sun, writing about his experiences in the New Hampshire mental-health system has prompted an outpouring of community support. (R. Carroll)
March 1, 2019

LACONIA, N. H. – In New Hampshire, the number of people waiting in hospital emergency rooms for a bed in a psychiatric facility has more than tripled since 2014, according to the state's new Mental Health Plan.

A local journalist has been covering this issue firsthand.

Managing Editor of the Laconia Daily Sun, Roger Carroll, says he was having suicidal thoughts. When his therapist said he needed more help than she could give him, they agreed he should go to the emergency room.

Looking back, Carroll considers his wait time lucky in comparison to others.

"Because I didn't have a history of drug use – I don't use drugs, I don't drink, I don't have a history of violence – I was a pretty easy placement,” says Carroll. “Within a day, which is really fast, I was taken to an inpatient facility about 10 miles from Laconia in the town of Franklin."

But Carroll says he's spoken with many who have waited more than a week in the ER before a psychiatric bed became available – some for weeks. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, the number of psychiatric beds in New Hampshire per capita is about the same as the national average.

Carroll says he wrote about his experience to decrease the stigma around depression and encourage others to get help. He was so open about it that, during his several-day stay, he invited his seven- and nine-year-old granddaughters to visit him at the hospital.

"I said, 'Do you know why I'm here?' And Gracie, the youngest, said, 'Because you're sad.' And I said, 'That's right sweetie, because it's called depression. And it hits people sometime, even grownups, and it's okay to get help,'” says Carroll. “That was one of the reasons I thought it was important that they see me there. One, they could see that grandpa's okay. And two, they need to know that when you have these obstacles, that it's okay to get help."

Carroll now meets with a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and says he's gradually feeling like himself again.

He notes that some days are easier than others. But family, friends, and co-workers continue to empower him, as well as more than 100 people who have reached out since his story was published.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - NH