The Association of Psychology in Newfoundland and Labrador says emergency staff must be trained properly in how to respond to people going through a crisis.

Spokesperson Jennifer Neil said otherwise patients may give up if they don't get the help they're seeking.

The association has responded to last week's incident involving Carla Lamb of Clarenville, who went to that town's hospital emergency department for help with a serious eating disorder, but was turned away. 

"We need to strike when the iron is hot. When people are in crisis, they are more willing to engage in the mental health system — and if that first contact they have with a professional is a negative one, then they are much less likely later on to re-engage. So we've kind of lost that opportunity to help that person," said Neil.

Neil said if there were more psychologists in the province, fewer people in crisis would be showing up at hospital emergency rooms.

She said there is one psychologist for every 2,500 people in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

'When people are in crisis, they are more willing to engage in the mental health system' - Dr. Jennifer Neil 

Neil said unless more are recruited, there will be more mental health emergencies like Lamb's. 

Lamb has a severe eating disorder and was told by a triage nurse to leave and get something to eat, and come back if she was not feeling better.

"Psychologists can be very preventative in mental health, and reduce emergency room visits," said Neil.