What Is It Really Like to Stay in A Mental Hospital?

January 20, 2015 Natasha Tracy

The idea of staying in a mental hospital can be scary, but what is it really like to stay in a mental hospital? Experiences vary, but mine wasn't so great.

I was diagnosed with bipolar about 16 years ago and it took years for me to find an effective treatment. At the time, I was very suicidal but I wouldn’t go to a hospital. I said, and I really meant, “I would rather die than go to one of those places.” But, much to my surprise, a few years later, when I was again very suicidal, I checked myself into one of those places. I stayed in a mental hospital.

What Are Mental Hospitals Like?

Mental hospitals, or psychiatric wards (which is, technically, where I was), are all different. Some offer the basic service of keeping you alive while others offer all types of therapies and treatment. Some are really designed for shorter term stays, like three days, while others are more able to handle longer stays such as those of a few months. It really does vary. And I would say that the quality of care available at different mental hospitals vary as well.

What Was My Stay at a Mental Hospital Like?

I admitted myself to the mental hospital after tearfully explaining to too many professionals in the emergency department that I was acutely suicidal. Doctors, of course, made the ultimate decision to admit me. Once there, they went through the few things I had brought with me, confiscated my medication (except the birth control pill) and showed me to a bed (it was late by the time I got there – hours in the emergency room to blame).

Not surprisingly, I was in pretty bad shape so every little thing seemed like an ordeal. I brought, quite intelligently, my own tissues and used far too many of them (those given out in the hospital are scratchy and unpleasant if you’re going to cry your way through the days).

The next day a general doctor came by to assess my overall health. Basic blood tests were run, my blood pressure was checked, that sort of thing. And then my psychiatrist (who worked at the hospital) came by. He promptly changed my medications drastically. Not surprising considering how badly I was doing but rapid medication changes are highly unpleasant under any circumstances. It seems to me, though, that this type of treatment is more common in the mental hospital as doctors know that any side effects that come up will be medical supervised and while unpleasant, are likely not dangerous.

The idea of staying in a mental hospital can be scary, but what is it really like to stay in a mental hospital?The next morning I woke up to a nurse shaking me awake and yelling at me to come and have breakfast in the common room. I said to the nurse, “I can’t see.”

However, she didn’t hear me, she didn’t believe me or she didn’t care because the last thing I remember was her leaving my room yelling at me to go have breakfast.

At that point I realized something. I realized that if I looked straight down, I could see my toes. I didn’t know why I could only see my toes, but somehow, that day, I made it to the common room and ate breakfast, only looking at my toes.

What had happened, of course, was side effect. For me, the medication was so strong I couldn’t wake, and when I was forcibly awoken, I remained so stoned that my eyelids, physically, wouldn’t open. This gave me the impression of blindness but, really, it’s just that I could only life my eyelids a tiny amount and thus could only see my feet.

I saw my psychiatrist again that day and explained what had happened. While I was rather disturbed by the experience he didn’t seem concerned in the least. I can’t remember if we adjusted things at that point or if the side effect wore off on its own. I saw him most days and we tweaked things regularly.

I was then introduced to group therapy – an every morning event – and art therapy --- every other day. And that was it for the therapies offered. It was pretty lackluster.

What It Was Like for Me to Stay in the Mental Hospital

In my case, as I was in a non-locked ward and I had signed myself in, I could sign myself out for short periods of time too so while I was “in” the mental hospital, I actually spent a lot of time in the park next door.

I will say that while I was there, they mixed up medications twice – I have no idea why. Maybe a doctor who writes too fast, maybe too many changes at once, who knows. But the nurses never took kindly to being told that.

I will also say that I thought the nurses were mostly crap. While I’m sure it varies all over, my experiences with them were mostly negative. When I went to speak to them at the desk, they would literally ignore my presence and go on about their conversations as if I wasn’t there. And I, being extremely sick, was in no position to assert myself. It’s like they thought they should ignore me because I was “crazy.”

I was also allowed to use the phone (one per floor) when I wanted – not that I really wanted to talk to anyone.

I had visitors and I don’t remember there being any set hours for their visiting. Someone dropped off books and another took me home so I could shower there instead of at the hospital.

All in all, it was really unpleasant. But then, I was so depressed and so suicidal, I can’t imagine anything being anything but unpleasant.

I cried my way through two weeks there until I and my doctor thought I was okay to go home. When I admitted myself I never thought I would stay that long. I thought they would keep me from killing myself for a couple of days and that would be it. But, instead, my doctor did want to see an improvement of some sort before I left.

In my next article I’ll sum up what I learned in the mental hospital and whether I think others should go to mental hospitals.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2015, January 20). What Is It Really Like to Stay in A Mental Hospital?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

January, 20 2015 at 4:08 pm

It's not a comforting place is it? Some even find it traumatic.

January, 20 2015 at 9:40 pm

I have been in 4 different hospitals and the variation is interesting. One was a county hospital and that scared the crap out of me. My biggest struggle is that we know some of the best things to do when you are struggling is to eat healthy and to exercise. None of the hospitals I went to were able to provide these. The last time I went to UCLA and unfortunately once in the Psych ward they would not let me see an internist. In the end my symptoms were caused by Lithium toxicity that induced a temporal lobe seizure. Disappointed they wouldn't listen to me.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 27 2018 at 9:31 am

youre not the only one i went to a hospital for two weeks and i turns out while i was in the hospital my freind died from strangulation in the shower

Anthony Metivier
January, 20 2015 at 11:31 pm

Thanks for sharing these experiences. You're right that they are not the nicest of places.
I had a similar experience from the manic side of the playing field. They stuck me in the acute card ward at first for an entire month. This was basically plastic cages observed from the nurses station, which was also behind transparent plastic.
After finally relenting and taking medication, I wound up in general care for a month. But they released me too soon, so I was back in again for yet another month.
Horrid experience and lots more to say about it. But I guess I wouldn't trade it for the world because who knows what would have happened if I went undiagnosed for much longer.
Thanks again for sharing your story!

January, 21 2015 at 6:13 am

I was in a psychiatric ward for two days following a suicide attempt my senior year of college. It was at once a terrifying experience and also a bit of a relief. Terrifying in the sense that I thought to myself "I don't belong here" and a relief to finally have my depression addressed and be able to talk about it.
Thank you for sharing your story.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Katie floyd
August, 29 2018 at 12:13 am

hi my name is katie! And I'm currently dealing with depression. how did it make you feel? It makes me feel like I have no emotions like I'm here but I'm not here. honestly I feel like I'm losing my mind.

August, 29 2018 at 7:56 am

Hi Katie,
What you just said about not feeling anything and like you're here but not here is actually common in depression. It does manifest differently for different people. You definitely aren't losing your mind although I can understand how it might feel that way. Make sure you get professional help because depression can and does get better.
- Natasha Tracy

Charmaine Langley
January, 21 2015 at 6:41 am

Thanks for sharing Natasha.
I too have been in a mental hospital for 3 weeks way back in 2002, and one thing I can say is that it was niether the worst nor the best place to be. Worse was the reason I ended up there, but then came the isolation from the world. But the blessing in disguise was finally putting a name to what I was going throuhg, and a concrete treatment plan in place for me to live by.
I don't always win, but years of therapy have give me much insight.
The mental institution was doctors, nurses (the most unfeeling, uncaring they could find) and group sessions. I hated that initailly, I had nothing to say. These people, I could not relate to. They did not seem real, it felt as they'd be placed there to trick me and get me to speak. But slowly my brain unravelled, and I became not only accepted intothe group therapy, but was regarded as a person with real value to add, and people cared what I had to say. Even asked me my views and wanted to hear.
Then there were the 'creative' classes. I hated that. Of course, I have no gift, so why whould they want me to explore something, do something. But I then made a leather belt, which I still own. I revived painting (just a tad), but what I did find was time-out. And I learnt that it was perfectly okay to tell the world I too like to stop.
So Natasha, thanks again for sharing.
My brief story:
Like most bipolar folk, I have comorbid anxiety and ADHD. The anxiety was the reason I ended up there. I woke one morning to a 'dead' body. I could not move, and my husband thought I was just making an excuse to not to go to work. He forced me out of bed, and by crawling my way to the bathroom, and then just giving up, I lay 'dead' on the floor. At the time, no-one had told me I was bipolar with comorbid anxiety. I was a depressive, and like much of the population believed, I was using my 'sorry' self to seek attention.
Long story short - I ended up in the mental hospital. My 'dead' self was revived. Honestly, I thought I'd had a stroke, as nothing moved. But slowly, with intervention, I was functional again. Saw the psychiatrist 3x a day, and that was when the diagnosis for bipolar and anxiety were made. It was here that I confronted my true self, and the first time I felt that a psychiatrist actually listened. I had always believed that when I was not 'down and out', but rather riding the wave, was well, just normal. When we slowly unravelled what I'd done, thought, been up to, in the past, it was clearly evident - I was bipolar. Years ago I had been told I was manic depressive, needless to say, that was old terminology, and with no explanation, it sounded like someone was trying to label me MAD! So I did not return.
And the cycle of destruction continued. So while I hated being in the institution, and cut off from my husband and daughter (then 7), I can truly say that that was the beginning of many steps to get to where I am today.
And I'm not okay often, but I get it. I understand it. And it makes living with me just a tad more pleasant.

Courtney Blair
January, 21 2015 at 6:46 am

I only stayed 2 days. I pretty much told either they would discharge me or I was leaving AMA. I was depressed and severely bulimic and was put on a floor with psychotic and alzheimers patients. It was never quiet. There was no sleep. The only therapy was putting together a puzzle and playing Wii. It was nothing but babysitting. It was by far the most stressful situation I have been in. I will never, NEVER go back!

January, 21 2015 at 7:44 am

The most harrowing thing I experienced when I was committed to the State Mental Hospital my inability to use the phone. I was taken straight to the hospital from the courtroom (50 miles away), and my husband, who was in the courtroom had no idea where they were taking me. I am deaf, and being unable to use the patient phone, I requested either a phone with a loud speaker or a TTY. The hospital didn't have one, and the only speaker phone was the one at the nurses' station and I was told patients weren't allowed to use it. I wanted desperately to reach my family to let the know where I was. I pleaded to no avail; meanwhile, my husband was calling all over the place trying to find out where I was and getting nowhere. This continued for 3 days. Here I was locked up against my will in a mental hospital and no one who cared about me knew where I was. I finally requested to speak to as patient advocate, and he helped me write out a complaint. He turned in my complaint and also one of his own asserting that the hospital was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not accomidating my disability by providing me a means to communicate on the phone. Within that same day, I was allowed to use the nurses' phone to call my husband. The thing that was hardest for me was how inflexible all the rules were. That inflexibility caused me more mental grief than my mental illness!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 25 2017 at 5:25 pm

Hi Becky, i had a similar experience as yours--i mean no offense to anyone w a mental illness, but it seems like some people look at the disabled and think we are mentally ill or developmentally delayed/retarded and treat us like infants with zero intelligence. I have come across so much ADA noncompliance it makes me ill. I was born with a genetic abnormality that has caused me to become immunologically compromised with neurological and motor problems and i am also hard of hearing with severe astigmatism (deaf in my left ear). In court they would not accommodate my hearing or vision differences and i had zero clue what was happening!

January, 21 2015 at 7:52 am

Hi, I found this very very interesting, i live in Ireland and have had several admissions to hospitals in the last 15 years and what I have experienced has been almost exactly the same as described above, except for the nurses part, they were mostly good in my situation. Anyway the reason this is so interesting is that lack of funding is the excuse we hear in ireland for the problems on the ward i.e. therapies and supports as well as physical environment, although our hospitals sound a bit worse than yours isnt it amazing that we have the same experience. Im really blown away by the similarities.

Taylor Arthur
January, 21 2015 at 8:09 am

I laughed out loud over you saying, "I'd rather die than go to one of those places." Oh my gosh, I said that, too! And then, when the day finally came, I begged my husband to find me one that was more "country-club" like! Why aren't there any Club-meds for us crazies? Why all scary nurses and metal doors? I was so scared the 8 days I stayed in-patient, mostly because of the other patients . . . it would be so much better to build mental hospitals that actually soothed instead of terrified the patients. We'll have to work on that, won't we?
Take care, great article.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 26 2018 at 1:07 am

... huge HUge HUGE concern for me as I'm already teetering but I won't die like a bloodied dog after being hit by a car. it was so sad and so sickening. i am terrified that that dog was me, it is me. and i will die alone broken and dead
i do hope you've found comfort in life and in yourself

January, 21 2015 at 2:40 pm

I've been in a hospital for psychiatric reasons 4 times. The first 3 times were in acute care facilities. These were all wards in a general hospital, my stays were all about 1-2 weeks. When I was in the hospital the third time, I was referred to a longer term facility, where the average stay is 2-3 months. My therapist, parents, and I all agreed that I was ready to leave around the four month mark, but due to some issues setting up outpatient care I was in for nearly 5 months. I was discharged 12/23. I was pretty okay with the acute centers, although they didn't do much for me. My long term stay was terrible. I hated every second, but I pushed through and I'm glad I did. After leaving, I feel safe, stable, and happy! I've been going through therapy for probably 3 years, and nothing has ever done what that psychiatric center did for me.

January, 21 2015 at 3:08 pm

I can honestly say nothing really bad about my various hospital stays. I was so desperate and suicidal, that anything was better than the hell I was going through. Nurses were busy, because they are short staffed. If you want to talk to somebody, you have to make a point to bring it to their attention. I saw good doctors. When I left I had appointments for a psychiatrist and a therapist. Now, don't shoot me for what I'm about to say but, I loved the food. 3 hot meals a day and snacks. I wasn't getting that at home, so I always joke that if and when I go back, at least I know I'll be eating good. lol

January, 21 2015 at 3:50 pm

i ended up is a psychiatric hospital ward in 2003, and I have never been back. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I had psychosis and mania with high anxiety. I was forced to stay seven weeks. At first I was scared of the other patients then I realised the enemy was the staff. I had repeated blood drug tests because they didn't believe me that I had never taken drugs. At first they allowed me to wrap my arms and legs around a male nurse for comfort as I was scared of needles, later they punished me for developing feelings for said nurse. I got the flu but was not allowed to see a doctor other then a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist didn't treat me for the flu. They drugged me at night with Valium but vallium made me lose my inhibitions so the next day they would punish me for doing what I did on the vallium. I was highly stressed about the war so after I had smashed the VCR one of the nurses played the news 24 hours per day. I was bored and this lead to more agitation. One nurse tried to help me find Gid. I was not suicidal or a danger to myself or others. My parents would have been able to deal with me better at home.
Ten years later u tried to go back to same hospital because I was suicidal and they turned me away.
I have since heard that a male patient would not use the hospital when he was suicidal because he was raped in it last time.
Most of the violence was structural so no one individual could be blamed.
I don't believe they helped me at all.. I had the worst low of my life two weeks after hospital and I survived even two suicide attempts because if the live and support of my family.
My partner was put in a Pyschiatric Emergency Care Unit after a suicide attempt for three days. They did not have any therapy or treatment besides medications. The nurses stated in the "fishbowl" and watched patients on CCTV. He got one visit from nurses for follow up care. The paperwork was not done and it made it hard for him to claim his income protection insurance. No discharge planning done and he wasn't released to me because I was only the girlfriend he was released to the care of his mother who lived in a different state.
There are good hospitals out there but they are not in my area unfortunately.

January, 21 2015 at 4:51 pm

I was brought to a psych ward by my EAP the first time where I was severely overmedicated and traumatized by the whole experience. Shortly before this I had told my mom about my step father molesting me as a child. My mother did NOT believe me. The second time my dad called an ambulance after I had overdosed on pills and cut myself. The third time I was taken by police escort from my GP's office where I was treated over a year for depression and anxiety, without ever being referred to a psychiatrist. In hospital the nurses were cold and uncaring without exception. I saw a pdoc very briefly once a day who prescribed medication that made me feel like giving up completely. The only thing that kept me hanging on was my anger about being forced to do something I didn't want to do, and that was stay in that hell hole taking mind bending meds. I was going to do whatever was required of me to get out of that place. Art therapy was a joke. I was a grown woman playing with crayons. I felt like I was in kindergarten. Exercise was just as bad because I was so overmedicated I could barely move. All in all it was not an experience I would wish on anyone.

January, 21 2015 at 5:32 pm

first stay was the must traumatic event of my life. Second stay was a low stimulus environment. It was painfully boring and not helpful. Just happy to get the right diagnosis and meds the second time around. I was always locked in...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Noah Reid
September, 27 2018 at 9:48 am

i hated it so much to it was the worst part of my life 2 weeks of no entertainment was not fair one time i was playing with a ball and then they took it away

January, 21 2015 at 10:22 pm

I had attempted suicide and when I woke up in the hospital, I remember them telling me I had two choices: either I went to stay in the mental hospital on my own or they forcefully admitted me. Either way, I did not want to go but if I had not made the choice to admit myself, I probably would have had to stay much longer than I actually did. We all wore grey sweat suits and the nurses didn't actually seem to care about us. I remember thinking that I didn't belong there, that the people there were actually insane and I was nothing like them. I mostly stayed in my room and cried. The only person who served to be of any help to be there was my room mate. She was an older woman who mostly stayed in our room and read books. She was always very sweet to me and she often told me that, while she understands that all I want to do is cry, I needed to try. She told me that as long as I tried, I would feel better. I did voluntarily admit myself, but I was not allowed to leave. I was allowed three phone calls a day. One after breakfast, one after lunch, and one after dinner. I called my mom every time. I think the worst thing sh about the whole experience was that it was in no way helping me with my depression or anxiety. Instead, I was allowed to cry in my room for as long as I wanted. I felt like a zombie and the whole thing felt unreal, like it was a strange dream. I never want to go back.
Thank you for sharing your story.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 26 2018 at 1:15 am

I cannot fathom why/how the people who need human kindness, compassion, and are most vulnerable get treated unfairly and inhumanely. I am soo oo desperate for help but I just hide at home crying, unable to leave, or go to work cuz I can't stop crying and wanting to die--which i'm not afraid of and would be welcomed. the thought of these places is worse than hell. It IS the vision I've always had of hell since I was a child! I hope you, & your roommate are happy now...

January, 22 2015 at 2:27 am

I have to say my experience was traumatic like some other commenters. It was violent, it was in a bad area, and I was scared for my life. There was hardly enough security so there were far too many injuries on innocent people. I had twenty minutes of therapy a week and that was it... I also am highly allergic to many foods and would repeatedly get those foods so I was often almost STARVING and eating a piece of bread and an apple a day... it was horrific. I guess it varies by person, but I could not wait to get the hell out of there.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 26 2018 at 1:22 am

So awful :( That's what my mother has always told me since I was a young girl. She said "If you're not totally nuts when you go in, you soon will be..." and then proceeded to inform me of the horrors which took place and what she had to do [to someone] to be snuck out of there during one stay. I visited her at her last stay a year ago which has an excellent reputation & was mortified at the complete lack of conherence, consistency, and care... just unreal! Yes, she needed help, but that place was &*^).

September, 26 2018 at 10:19 am

Hi AJ,
I really need to tell you that not all psychiatric facilities are the same. Please understand that while some people do have bad experiences, some people do have great experiences. If you can find help in other ways, that's fine, but remember, these _are_ an option and can help. They can keep you safe and alive and that's important. Your life and happiness is important.
- Natasha Tracy

November, 23 2018 at 11:31 pm

I agree. I checked myself in after falling apart at my therapist appointment. I was suicidal. I stayed 10 days. Nurses and staff were caring. When too much noise and light I was allowed to hang out in the quiet room for as long as I wanted. The staff encouraged us to talk to them about our issues. Being there saved my life.

January, 22 2015 at 5:23 am

I have a few thoughts on this. I am a pediatric psych nurse and have also been a psych patient many times in residential, inpatient, outpatient and day treatment settings. I have been on both sides.
- Most psych units are not like a hotel. The furniture, environment, etc. are designed to maintain safety for every patient.
- rules and restrictions are in place for a reason. If you are not allowed to have a certain item, it isn't necessarily that staff things you will use it to harm self or others, but that someone has in the past and it cannot be present on the unit because of that risk.
- the staff is not the enemy. We are trying to help the best we can with the resources we have. We do not come to work each day thinking "hmm, how can I make the patients miserable today?".
- Most inpatient units are for crisis stabilization- that typically means keeping people physically safe, adjusting medications, maybe some light groups. It is not for individual therapy, for figuring out all your problems. After you are stabilized, outpatient therapy needs to be continued (or started) to work on core issues.
- psych units are not meant to be a cozy, comfortable place to kick back and watch tv. There are many people who find the psych unit "safe" and use it to escape outside life and reality.
- psych units are typically not diagnosis-specific, unless it's a large psychiatric institution that has specialized programs. Units may be separated by age (adult and geriatric), but that is typically the extent. I understand that it can be upsetting to hear someone scream or talk to things that no one else can see, but every patient is in the hospital for an acute mental health crisis. Please do not judge!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 26 2018 at 1:43 am

*This is garbage. If you actually READ many of the comments anyone could see the retaliatory incidences from staff.
*Unbelievable, erroneous, and very close-minded of you to steadfastly refuse to consider another person's reality because it doesn't coexist with the rosy fictional account of heroic staff doing their "best". Their so-called best is crap. I've been TERRORIZED in hospitals from nursing staff--and I don't even speak to them, or move!
*Placing blame (or blaming them at all) onto people trying to receive treatment and care is just sick; truly sick. Blaming people with mental health... i'm speechless. This profession is full of judgmental, unqualified, unaware, inflexible, dishonest, and uncaring individuals who find a sanctuary of small minded & like minded individuals who are the worst types of persons to be in the Health CARE Field. (See the care word?)
*Psych units are NOT meant to be comfortable??? What the.... well you got your wish Danielle, because they aren't. And not only that, they are horrific! And that is part of the problem-- people who DON'T want to make their patients comfortable, and feel justified using maltreatment. Unbelievable....
*Get out because clearly your HEART is not in it. You're lying to your employer, yourself, and worst of all, lying to people who DO NEED someone to give a crap about them because they're at the end of the line :(
*Being in an ACUTE STATE, means help and treatment immediately... and MDs who work in acute treatment are the best not the worst AND they do care, are open minded, flexible, understanding, and most of all WANT their patients to be comfortable, to feel safe, so they're able to put their fears and burdens aside, to get much needed rest ("kick back & watch TV" as you call it!!), and to trust committed and caring staff with their lives.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 19 2018 at 1:10 pm

As an RN and a person with mental illness, I find your comments spot on, Danielle. Some facilities are not very nice. Some nurses are horrible, but you will find this in any healthcare field. People are people and you will find the same types of people as you see anywhere in life. There are a lot of nurses who really care and a lot who should get out of the profession.

January, 22 2015 at 4:01 pm

Thank you, Danielle, for your comment. I am a therapist who works in an acute inpatient psych unit doing group therapy. First, I'm glad you mention that no one comes to work with the intent of harming the patients. Most of us have chosen to become health care providers because we have some sense of altruism. It takes a lot mentally and emotionally to be a care provider in this setting. At the hospital where I work, we try to use a therapeutic use of self to build rapport with the patients but it is difficult to do so because so many of our patients literally cannot hol a conversation. Which brings me to group therapy. I've done group therapy inpatient and outpatient, and I felt so much more effective in outpatient because people were actually able to engage. There are so many times when I end up choosing a craft to do with everybody in inpatient because I know those are the only directions the majority of attendees will follow. However, I would love to provide coping mechanisms invidualized to each person, so that your only option is not to stay in your room and cry. But it is so difficult to actually come to any such conclusion during conversations with patients. Because of meds or symptoms, people have a hard time telling me about their interests, their coping strategies, how they like to use their time.
Lastly, I definitely agree with many of you who say you were discharged too soon. I hate the feeling I get when I know I'm crossing my fingers hoping I wont see the patient in a week. But we are limited by law in many ways- we cannot keep people who do not want to stay voluntarily if they are not a harm to themselves or others, or who are not gravely disabled. That's why when my patients discharge, I highly stress outpatient follow-up to continue receiving care.
I am glad so many of you posted how you feel about inpatient though- it has been very eye opening and I feel like I understand better now where my patients are coming from. I will keep these comments in mind when planning exercise and activity group to make it better. I hope you will keep this notion in mind- and remember that some healthcare providers are trying to do the best they know how.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 2 2018 at 6:16 pm

I was escorted by police to a NY state hospital because my mom had a restraining order against her husband who was beating her on a regular basis and he broke into her house, I on other hand suffer from extreme trama & have PTSD, SAD & ADHD from a very bad childhood & tryed to attack my mother's husband with a butcher knife. Understand I have watched my mother be thrown around & beaten my entire childhood not to mention the things that have happened to me. But the staff in general was fine I know it's not some kind of clubmed, but when you tell the psychiatric doctor not to touch you when he isn't doing any medical procedure & you tell them you have a thing about people touching you, he continues to do it. This is wrong way to approach someone who has issues with ppl touching them.. I was release after only being there 14 hours... Even though I was supposed to be there for 48 hours. Because they refused to let me make formal complaint, I stop being compliant. That was over 20 years ago. But I'm not really sure such a place can infact help someone like me, since they can't follow a simple rule. These places must in fact follow your rights as a patient who was complying with all that was asked of them. No charges were ever filed against me by police. So ya I won't ever go back. I later filed a complaint, but he was still working there, never a sorry nothing.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 26 2018 at 2:11 am

Altruistic? That just is not the same as caring, compassion, nor dedicated. As a human being, we're expected to be altruistic creatures... but not always doing it well.
Fields where people are weak, disadvantaged, unseen, and misunderstood also have a dark history of harboring staff who are supposed to CARE by definition and practice-- but ultimately, proudly state they DO NOT have the responsibility to make those under their "care" (yeah, that word again) comfortable; hence, they do not care about them.
Additionally, uncaring and unapathetic persons seek out such careers because human suffering does not affect them--because yes, they don't care. "Warm-body" staff who just exist to collect a check need to be run out of Health CARE, period. Too many join the field because who's going to fault their horrendous behaviors; their jobs are just too tough and they do jobs no one else wants to which they cannot state often enough. Jobs like health care, mental health care, special education, disadvantaged youth, people with behavioral challenges, convicts, etc. gives these sick people the opportunity to call themselves altruistic, heroes, etc. which is the furthest thing from the truth. In fact, they hide behind their patients' struggles, take advantage of the, and congratulate themselves for "putting up" with people who need to be pushed out the door, as was the statement by another blogger (Danielle), whom you thanked for her insight!! :-0
People, like you & Danielle, need to be excused from this field. It's whole unethical to make statements you are making! This begs the question, how do you really feel :-0 Wanting to push people out (not get them better--what ever it takes, and however long it takes) is WRONG. Intentionally misusing the term healthcare by cutting out the care part is WRONG. And most of all, blaming people for their problems and and accusing them of things no one knows, is definitely WRONG. Both of you, and like-minded people need to stop faking it--or take a few semesters learning about social justice, social problems, IDEA, ADA, human & ethical treatment of those in need care, etc. to which you apparently have no concept.

January, 23 2015 at 9:38 am

No firsthand experience as a patient to share, but I hope I can add some secondhand perspective from a multitude of patients and facilities.
While the range of (for lack of a better word) 'quality' varies widely, it seems that the vast majority are generally clustered towards the bad end of the spectrum that you described. That is in terms of staff that are competent and treat you with respect, helpful programming, reasonable access to appropriate individual care, etc. I wish it were different, but there's something about nursing jobs, and nursing jobs in psych in particular, that can really turn people into jaded assholes.
It's worth differentiating between psych wards generally dealing with acute admissions like you're talking about, and the typically more specialized ones that offer inpatient interventions to treat severe chronic conditions, but not necessarily urgent ones. And yes, the latter are a dying breed (in public funded hospitals anyway), which is part of the reason that the acute units can be a revolving door for some people.
Your observation about rapid med changes is a good one. Inpatient treatment gives you the opportunity to make such drastic changes that would take a very long time (and there may not be that time, if you're decompensating) as an outpatient. It's not only the physical side effects that they can watch for (though there's far less cooperation between psych and medical units than their should be) but also drastic mental status changes too, like markedly increased suicidality.
As usual, you're right that the main conclusion you can draw is that things vary a lot. Plus, you don't even necessarily know where you'll end up when you go to the ER. It really is a crap shoot, even though it shouldn't be. So even though more people have bad experiences than good ones, it's hard to generalize.
Except that if you're at the point where you're looking to get admitted for safety reasons (especially voluntarily) it's probably because you've run out of other options to keep yourself going, and it's worth a shot. Frankly, what isn't trial and error when it comes to mental health treatment?

January, 23 2015 at 11:45 am

In 1984 my husband got very psychotic after his btother passed away, after 2 weeks of no sleep,not eating, i took him to the hospital,i had lost my husband to thinking he was Gods disciple,and i was satan to him, they diagnosed him with manic depressive, and on alot of hard anti pyschotics,and lithium, he was out of it ,i brought him home with no one idea what to expect, so as time went on he increasingly worse,they said, they "dane co.mental health,to put him away he would never get better...i was mad,i went to the library to research, its now 2 years of starting me on fire,trying to preform an excersism on me,not sleeping,not eating,lithium toxic,so i found a new diagnosis that fit,dane co.mental heath i fired them,i found a dr. Who 100% agreed with me, i was right it was schizo-affective disorder and to put him on tegretol,and just like the movie awakenings,my chris came back,and has been stable most of our marriage,he doesnt remember those 2 yrs of pyschosis , just dont give up,and see a real pyschiatrist, be well Maria

January, 23 2015 at 5:06 pm

For me the worst part of being involuntarily committed to a psych ward was that I basically had no rights. It felt like a jail sentence. The doctor had ALL the power and I had no choice but to comply with whatever treatment was offered. I was terrified. Although I understand why, it was also a little creepy being watched all the time on surveillance cameras. There was no privacy. There was also a camera in the one and only shower (with NO) curtains. If only staff had been a little bit more compassionate and/or understanding that would've helped alot. I didn't feel safe and I was also deeply ashamed. I actually felt worse when I got out of the hospital not better. I started stockpiling pills, going to different stores as not to raise suspicion. I told myself I was NEVER going back to hospital again. Eventually though I did decide to get help, on my own. I took the initiative and found some help at a community mental health clinic where I was lucky enough to be paired with a kind caring pdoc who actually listened and wasn't just interested in prescribing medication!

January, 24 2015 at 4:44 am

I have been admitted twice dealing one with my bipolar disorder n depression I became suicidal due to unforeseen circumstances but both instances I was headed to the same hospital ward and undoubtedly had an experience that was profound emphasis on the most of the nursing staff was extremely polite and some even went out of their way for the patience but the doctors I worked with were outstanding.I guess after reading some of the other comments I am grateful I was in a region that wonderful mental health facility

January, 24 2015 at 5:16 am

Back in the 90's I had two very pleasant experiences in two different in-patient mental health facilities. Getting stabilized on meds in the hospital made me feel "safe" because I've always hated changing meds, not knowing what these mind-bending drugs would do to me. Insurance was different in those days - stays were longer, the stay was aimed at helping us learn and practice good coping mechanisms. Days in-patient were filled with group therapy, arts/crafts, a trip to the gym, and great food. Staff was great. I felt safe and comfortable - relieved to be away from work, family and friends. I felt like I was on vacation, while at the same time, doing some hard work in my head. Upon discharge, out-patient was scheduled, which was very good as well. I came away each time feeling like I could tackle anything. The world was beautiful once again.
I had one stay a few years ago in the county hospital - no insurance after a job layoff. Waited 3 days in the "psych ward waiting room" on the 10th floor of the hospital, and this was a very eye-opening experience. Living in an uncomfortable straight back chair or recliner for 3 days while waiting on a bed was not a pleasant experience. Nor was it pleasant having to dodge the psychotic folks that seemed to be the majority of people there. I was scared to death I would die in this ward at the hands of one of those patients. When finally placed on my unit, it was no better. Utter chaos. I was one step above the people with psychosis in the unit next to mine. Screaming, crying, singing, you name it heard through the walls days in / day out. We did get good food, snacks and soft drinks at night. I must say, the staff was better than expected in this county hospital. So caring, approachable, good listeners, attentive to our needs.
Yes, there are rules we don't like. The rules are in place for a reason. The rules are meant to keep us safe while in-patient, as well as respect others that may not be on the same plane we're at. We are to be safe - protected from ourselves and from others.

Mari Dreamwalker
January, 25 2015 at 8:34 am

Thank you for your courage to share your journey. I admire you courage to share and educate others. Many Blessings to you!

veronica Smith
January, 27 2015 at 11:47 am

I grew up in foster care from age 6 to 18. i am now 33 i have been in so many hospital's and residential's. I dont really think any of them helped me as much as they stressed me out so much. The abuse in them places are so horroriable. Also being in the system all you were was a liar. I know that i never wanted to be in those places. to this day i have a lot of mental health issues which i believe is due in return of the system. Now my 10 year old son has a lot of mental health issues. I am not rich at all so again here we go with state aid. He has been in two different hospitals 5 times in 4 years. I know deep down he needs help but i also know how they are at those places and i feel like i am failing my son when he gets sent to these places

Robert from Australia
February, 6 2015 at 7:44 pm

I found great interest both in Natasha Tracy's original article and in the comments upon it from others.
Nothing spectacularly horrible has ever happened to me when I have been a psych patient here in Australia (private hospitals for the most part). I have been admitted several dozen times, unfortunately, but always with my own consent: for the simple reason that however badly I might function as a patient, trying to function outside the hospital environment had become virtually impossible.
In my case, there has been no bipolar / manic element. Nor has there been a psychotic factor or an alcohol / drug factor. It has always been a matter of intense depression, with very severe social anxiety.
Overall I have found the nurses at those hospitals to be fundamentally conscientious, hard-working people. I did not experience the kind of treatment which Natasha Tracy mentions ("When I went to speak to them at the desk, they would literally ignore my presence and go on about their conversations as if I wasn’t there").
If there were any problems which I witnessed they involved certain psychiatrists rather than nurses. One psychiatrist, whom I obviously must not name, has a widespread reputation (readily confirmed by Google) for forcibly administering vast quantities of medication far in excess of what patients need. Nevertheless, I was simply able to avoid that particular practitioner, and I had no problems with the psychiatrist who had been assigned to me, who seemed decent.
While I hope that I will never need to be re-admitted, I know that there is a better-than-even-money chance that re-admission will have to take place in my future at some stage. I am 53 years old, single, and plagued with crushing despair as well as social anxiety for as long as I can recollect.

February, 7 2015 at 3:45 pm

I'm so sorry to hear of so many terrifying and traumatizing experiences at the hands of the very people from whom you all sought support. I was blessed, my two separate eight week stints in a mental health hospital literally changed my life. Although I was admitted with mood disorders, I was also diagnosed with PTSD when in hospital. I was a prisoner in my own home for the first 17 years of life. I was terrorized by my sociopathic father and consequently learned to cope by turning my emotions off completely. They remained turned off or at the very least inappropriate for the next 40 years of my life. Being an inpatient taught me why I behaved the way I did, taught me how my self esteem was barely intact, taught me I was a worthy individual and I've been living a constantly improving life ever since my discharge almost two years ago. I now have the tools to cope and manage an illness I will have for the rest of my life. The staff in the hospital were amazing, compassionate, and knowledgeable, and if I have to return there in the future, I know it will be beneficial. I have friends who have been treated with disdain and ignorance by alleged health care professionals, but it would be a tragedy if even one individual were to refuse admission based on negative experiences of others because there are places where you can get exactly what you need.!it was a lot of very hard work but it was worth it.

February, 11 2015 at 3:19 pm

I hate art therapy!!! Not a creative bone in my body. But, three cooked meals a day, with snacks! At least I ate good!!

June, 27 2015 at 1:19 am

I've worked in a maximum mental health facility for 17 years and I hate it. Hate it. Hate it. The Staff are nasty and cold, the place stinks, the therapy is non existent and injuries from violence happen daily. The place has done a number on me over the years. These places can be horrible for both sides.

July, 1 2015 at 2:45 am

This sounds terrible. I wish I had some encouraging words for those who are looking here. That seeking treatment is the right answer for you. Despite my issues I've avoided being checked in. Though it has been close and at times I thought of going in myself. I like to know things so I've been looking for a good place to go if I felt I had to find a facility. If you are still reading and still seeking help please do. If you can make a decision try to make a good one for you.

July, 15 2015 at 4:24 am

Well, I read through enough experiences here to dissuade me from going to one. I was really on the verge: crippling anxiety and depression in a family business environment with a borderline insane dad/boss. I sit at my desk with my head in my hands all day. I've basically lost it, but I'm not about to take a risk on a facility that might not help, and it sounds like it's a crap shoot.
I guess I'll continue my books by David Reynolds and Gregg Krech on Morita therapy and Naikan therapy, which are totally different from Western therapy that's completely failed me over the years. I wish I could visit a Morita or Naikan facility; their approaches are completely different than Western therapies with high degrees of success. Unfortunately, I don't speak Japanese, otherwise I'd be on a plane over there tomorrow. It's worth reading about about those therapies, though. As I've said, Western therapy has failed me, and I feel like these have some promise. I'm glad I didn't step into a nightmare hospital situation.

July, 17 2015 at 10:47 pm

Thank you all for sharing. As I have schizoid personality disorder it would probably be a nightmare for me, I am just imagining being in such a place and I can't stand even thinking about it.
I would never go near a mental institution.
Thank you for sparing me another horrible experience.

December, 2 2015 at 10:28 am

Wow I feel bad after seeing other people's experiences. I guess I have been lucky where I live the psych units really do help and are actually pretty nice. The staff is also very kind. There is only one pdoc that is a complete jerk at the one, but everyone else was great. I got a lot of help. Don't stop yourself from going based on another person's experience.

December, 11 2015 at 8:32 pm

The psychiatric hospital i go to i most definitely love. I think that i actually start ro hurt myself so i can go back in

January, 18 2016 at 10:35 am

I've been hospitalized 11 times. I have a co-morbid anxiety disorder. Now found a treatment therapy for it that worked... whew... finally. Each time was worse than the last. I tried hospital after hospital and none would help. I have bipolar 1 and found none of these hospitals helpful. I just didn't know how to deal with my illness, went there for help and they didn't help.... Found a good psychiatrist and therapist and out patient for me 100% all the way.

Dr Musli Ferati
January, 30 2016 at 10:43 pm

Hospitalization of psychiatric patient is yet component part of its current psychiatric treatment, whereby we achieve to prevent fatal outcomes of respective mental illness. The same is value for mood disorders as periodic fluctuations of affection. Indeed, in clinical psychiatry exist guidelines for hospitalization of each mental disorder, but the implementation of these clinical and therapeutic protocols often is hinder up by numerous objective and subjective reasons. By last ones psychiatric guidelines each statement of psychiatric patient when its and others life is at stake, is indication of prompt indication for hospitalization. In real life there are many legal and socio-cultural problems that render more difficult this psychiatric protocol. However, hospitalization of mentally ill patient indicates unavoidable treatment and management of patient with serious psychiatric entities, particularly in their acute and florid phase. It is welknown fact that extra-hospital treatment is current tendency for up to date psychiatry, because its permit efficient rehabilitation an resocialization of mentally ill person. It mean shorterm inward treatment of hospitalization is preferable way to successful treatment of mentally ill patient. Otherwise, longstanding inward treatment of psychiatric patients leads to their hospitalismus, as second complication, more difficult mental statement than primary one. In a word. psychiatric treatment should be complex approach, where multiaxial biopschychosocial intervention indicates satisfactory methodology.

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