General hospital emergency departments (EDs) are obvious places for individuals in psychiatric distress or a mental health crisis to seek assistance. However, the typical mental health presentation does not fit with the treatment norm of most EDs creating a tension around the care of individuals with mental illnesses. Eight focus groups were held with mental health patients and their families to determine their satisfaction with care received in regional EDs with particular emphasis on their evaluation of the role of the psychiatric emergency nurse. Themes identified were: waiting in the ED, attitudes of treatment staff, diagnostic overshadowing, 'no where else to go', family needs, and a wish list for ideal services. These issues are described in this paper along with clinical and systemic implications.