What I Learned About Psych Hospital Stays

January 27, 2015 Natasha Tracy

Last week, I discussed the good, the bad and the ugly of what my stay at a psych hospital was like. While my experiences at were both good and bad, I did learn from my stay at the psych hospital.

Psych Hospitals Are Not Carnival Rides

The idea of staying in a psychiatric hospital can be scary, but what I've learned about real psych hospital stays isn't so scary. Read more.I was right about some things about the psych hospital before I went and I was wrong about others. One thing that struck me was how little true help was offered in the mental hospital. I didn’t consider to talking to other patients and gluing tiles together actual “help.” But as I said last week, many psych hospitals do have better programs than that.

But here’s the thing about the mental hospital: they do one thing and they do it better than anyone else. The mental hospital keeps you safe and keeps you alive until your treatment has a chance to work. And that’s really what I needed. I needed a safe place so I would be alive to see tomorrow. And that’s what the psych hospital gave me.

What You Should Know about Psych Hospital Stays

I think the two things to remember are:

  1. There’s no reason to be scared of the psych hospital.
  2. It’s better to check yourself into a psych facility rather than have the police bring you because you were completely out of control. You don’t want to be in a locked ward unless you have to be.

And I think it’s important to remember that your life is worth the unpleasant experience of the hospital because the mental hospital is short-lived, but your life is long. I’m not clambering to go back, that’s for sure, but I wouldn’t choose death over being a patient, that is also true. Mental hospitals really aren’t the stuff of nightmares and they really aren’t like you see in the movies.

And if a psych hospital stay might be in your future, check out their programs first and pick the best mental hospital you can find. Where I am there aren’t options, but in cities there certainly are. (And when you go, take your own pillow. Theirs will probably suck.) And use whatever programs are there; participate. Some people say that the mental hospital was the best thing that ever happened to them and was their positive treatment turning point.

Remember, it’s brave to take the step of staying in a psych hospital to save your life. It’s hard, but your life is worth it.

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 27). What I Learned About Psych Hospital Stays, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 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.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

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

February, 1 2015 at 3:58 pm

Not all facilities are created equal in every state. This also depends on cost, insurance, deductibles and other factors that can be weighed in on both sides. That is why in a sense it almost depends on where you live, the individual, insurance, etc. It is a crap shoot. Also, the staff at the hospital, the type of hospital, etc. makes a huge difference as well.
If it were not for these hospitals I would not be alive either. Some were better than others; however, I am here today writing this post.

January, 31 2015 at 12:19 am

I think what Renita's GP did is illegal? Unfortunately so many people are traumatized by involuntary admissions and forced treatment. I was lucky I had a sensible doctor when I was under the involuntary treatment order. It doesn't HAVE to be traumatic. Mostly this depends on the people involved being competent or not. But in order not to feel traumatized, we must not allow ourselves to feel helpless. People, society even will make us feel like the poor unfortunate helpless and that is what will be traumatizing.

January, 30 2015 at 12:56 am

... the hospital programs sucked. At least at the community mental health clinic they had a myriad of useful programs to choose from and the doctors there are very interested in preventing relapses/hospital admissions by being much more proactive than my EAP or GP ever were

January, 29 2015 at 6:22 pm

Hello Sarah
Been around that mountain 3 times already. Agree with and did most of the things you said. But DEEPLY resented being involuntarily committed, felt betrayed/victimized and will never again trust the EAP (from 1995) or GP (in 2013) who had me committed EVER again. Anyone who has ever been sexually molested will know what I mean when I say being FORCED to do anything that is unpleasant or shameful stirs up old feelings and memories... I went to that GP (who knew my history...) for over a year and was never referred to a psychiatrist when clearly I should've been from the very beginning. Stress levels precipitated a manic depression. My employer was drastically downsizing the office staff at the time due to budget cuts and had been harrassing me to take the buy out and leave which I seriously couldn't afford to do) yet my GP actually thought it was a good idea to tell my supervisor (responsible for suggesting who got cut) that I sufferer from a mental illness. With all the stigma that's out there, are you kidding me? My EAP is not a doctor and my GP is not a specialist. The only good thing that came out of going to the hospital AFTER I got 'stabilized' (I was not stabilized in the hospital, I just pretended to be. I only said and did what I needed to to get out) was a referral to a community mental health clinic where I found a psychiatrist I liked because he truly listened... While in hospital I was too blinded by anger and bitterness to see/accept the help being offered there

January, 29 2015 at 4:21 pm

I'm a veteran of psychiatric hospitals; I've had four admissions.
The best way to survive the experience is to have self-efficacy. By this I mean that you should be proactive in your own treatment.
There are certain things about the psychiatric ward which may not meet your expectations. These include: the way the nurses work, what you do and do not have control over, the food, the problems of the other patients.
Don't waste energy trying to change these things or wishing they were different. These are resources that you have to get better.
The food may not be great but it is a source of nutrition and source of structure in your day and it will help you get better.
The nurses might seem difficult but they are actually an important resource for your recovery. They will ensure the accuracy of your medication and monitor your physical health. They provide the structure that you need to get better. Some of them may go further with helpful advice for you to remember.
The other patients are also a helpful resource, particularly the ones who have been there before. You can learn coping skills. For me, I have to remember not to go into 'help everyone' mode; it's a manifestation of the manic episode. But you can make friends.
Don't try and fight your doctor. Resistance is useless, and makes things worse. Talk to him/her about your concerns. For instance I am often concerned about side effects I've had in the past so I need to make sure he/she hears me on this one. Your doctor won't be able to hear your concerns if you are fighting him.
If your hospital has activity programs, try to participate and keep yourself actively busy during the day. Even if you know the content - the lady running one of the classes let me co-facilitate. Take advantage of music or art opportunities.

Betty Farnsworth
January, 29 2015 at 8:41 am

The price is bad. Twenty years ago my then insurance would pay for up to a month, more if the doctor could convince them more. Now my insurance pretty much allows 3 days. In three days there's not much you can do. You enter not knowing what to expect, spend the first day with paperwork and evaluations. The next day is still being unsure and learning the schedule and the next day you are sent home. I see nothing good with a three day stay. Luckily our hospital has a partial hospitalization. You go either 1/2 day or a whole day. They are each different depending on the group. We have 2 groups here. The one I like is the 1/2 day one. Its a 28 day program. You have group therapy where I learned a lot about others with the same issues and sharing solutions. I had a similar group in a different city. The all day one in my town, different hospital, is more just a gathering place with some groups and learning more social skills and basic care. To me it wouldn't do anything for me. I need structure and don't like wasting my time. If that's what you need its there. So you might check around for that. Medicaid will pay for some of these programs.

January, 29 2015 at 7:30 am

My psych doctor connected with a psych hospital and my therapist who was an intake nurse at one told me that the ones they were at near where I live in a majot metro area were horrible and to stay away. If I had to go I should shut and just do what they want. How long does insurance pay for one? Then there are the 25 grand a month hospitals where you get to sit in the sun and have fun coloring and writing how you feel... Sorry, Natasha, the mental health system is totally broken and many facilities are shut down and prisons have become the new mental health hospitals. If you pay you can play and for one I cant afford 25 grand a month. I would like you to put together a list of mental health facilities that are safe and insurance will pay for and not just for 5 days.

Betty Farnsworth
January, 29 2015 at 7:24 am

I agree that psych hospital stays can be helpful. I would probably be dead if not for them. When I first was having suicide attempts they kept me safe. Later I learned how to protect myself and didn't need them for that reason anymore. It was also good to be there when I changed medicine because it turned out I had a side effect and they knew what to do. I never had a problem with a violent patient. As soon as one started showing signs of causing problem they were immediately taken away from the regular patients. Some people have had problems with the main door being locked but remembering it was best so I wouldn't have the opportunity to hurt myself, I was okay with it. I looked at it as a safe place not a place where crazy people. Most are there as a protection from themselves. Plus there was staff that would come running when there was a problem. I wasn't there to be locked up with crazies I was there for me, There are more like me there and we were not crazy.

January, 27 2015 at 3:36 pm

Sorry but I strongly disagree. There are indeed reasons to be scared in a psych ward, especially if it's your first time. The unpredictability of some patients (ie, psychotic, violent, etc), memory loss from ECT, side effects from medications forced on you, some even life threatening such as Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrone, Stevens, Johnson Syndrome. Finding the right medication can be a real crap shoot. Doctors are not the Gods that some people make them out to be. Being rendered vulnerable is scary. The sad fact is that abuses do abound, certainly more so than in a regular hospital. After all who is going to believe a crazy person... And as for keeping you safe, far too many people are discharged before they should to be.

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