Successful Launch of World’s First Mental Health Ambulance in Stockholm

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Twelve months ago Stockholm was the first city in the world to deploy an ambulance specifically for responding to mental health crisis. Impressive data speaks to its success.

Over 1,500 suicides and 15,000 suicide attempts are reported annually in Sweden. Stockholm decided to introduce the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PAM) to assist in emergency therapy. From the outside the ambulance look like a conventional rescue vehicle, but the inside is drastically different.

Successful Launch of World’s First Mental Health Ambulance in Stockholm
PAM ambulance. Photo: Alexander Donka

During the first twelve months the PAM Ambulance has responded to over 1,000 individuals in need of help, equaling 135 calls per month on average, and only 96 individuals have had need for repeated contact.

It is the first of its kind in the world and is essentially an emergency response therapy room that can travel at 70 miles per hour. Rather than bright lights and stretchers, patients are greeted with comfortable seats and warm, inviting lights, where a dedicated team listen to someone in need of counseling.

Successful Launch of World’s First Mental Health Ambulance in Stockholm
The PAM ambulance is essentially an emergency response therapy room that can travel at 70 miles per hour

Traditionally the police handled these emergency cases, but now the team includes two mental health nurses and one paramedic. The quality of care is improved, and at the same time minimized the stigmatization of patients with psychiatric problems.

“We help people who are suicidal and people who suffer from severe mental illness,” says mental health nurse Anki Björnsdotter. And adds, “It can be someone who is manic and not aware of their own mental state, such as a person who needs to go to a hospital without realizing they need to. Also, people who are psychotic and people suffering from schizophrenia who haven’t taken their medicine and are in distress.”
Only one fourth out of the 1,036 individuals who attended during the first year went on to longer inpatient care. The scheme has proved it is offering the right response to such delicate emergencies.

Successful Launch of World’s First Mental Health Ambulance in Stockholm
Anki Björnsdotter in front of the PAM ambulance

Looking back, Björnsdotter says she wonder why they didn’t consider this sooner and hopes similar services will be available in all major Swedish cities. Currently, Stockholm is the only Swedish city to have taken such measures to reduce suicide rates.

However, other regions like Skåne, Örebro, Blekinge, and Jönköping are now all looking into the possibility of using PAM.

Successful Launch of World’s First Mental Health Ambulance in Stockholm
“We help people who are suicidal and people who suffer from severe mental illness,” says mental health nurse Anki Björnsdotter (above)

Hopefully, it’s only a matter of time before other countries adopt the same measure to reduce suicide rates.

Successful Launch of World’s First Mental Health Ambulance in Stockholm , written by Tor Kjolberg

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