What Is It Really Like to Stay in A Mental Hospital?
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.
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.
Tracy, N. (2015, January 20). What Is It Really Like to Stay in A Mental Hospital?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 30 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2015/01/what-is-it-really-like-to-stay-mental-hospital
Author: Natasha Tracy
Me myself have been to a mental facility MANY times and i'm only a teenager I honestly couldn't stand the place whenever I was finally almost able to sleep I swear this one person would always keep you awake my thoughts on suicide,almost did it how i got into one of those horrible places,addimitted by myself and by others I was anti religious for awhile and that really made me question my life I also have anxiety and deppression and i'm not usually able to share it so this was actually very helpful.
I'm very sorry to hear you have had such poor experiences with mental hospitals. I'm glad you could share here.
- Natasha Tracy
Was curious.My dr had recommended short term inpatient for stabilizing my meds.I have heard they take your bra and make you wear a gown.Is this true?What's the intake process like
i have been in one myself at least 6 or 7 times as im only 14 the stay in the mental unit made everything worse not only that i was mistreated by staff i think then really need to work on making it a good space instend of a bad place that just makes it worse because then no one will want to speak up all they did was drug me didnt tell me what they just drugged me it was really bad .......
if you ever need someone to talk to email me
I had basically the same experience when i was admitted, i remember being given tons of different medications some made me unable to do anything but sleep. The meds also just made me feel more depressed and anxious. The nurses wouldnt tell me what they were giving me and what doses i was receiving whatsoever. I remembered just wanting to be alone but people wouldnt stop talking to me. People repeatedly stole my possessions because i was so drugged that i couldn't understand what they were doing. I was constantly being awoken at night by my roommates and i got little to no sleep at all. The psychiatrists just blatantly ignored all my requests and didn't even really discuss how to deal with my problems. All they did was ask me why i was there and what the date and name of the facility was. I remember when i got out my parents kept telling me how much they were trying to call me but the doctors wouldnt even pick up the phone and let them talk to me. They wouldn't even let us stand up at some point during my hospitalization. I also remember that a girl had a seizure right in front of us and no one did anything to help her, emts were literally across the street from us!! It took them 1 hour to arrive and actually help her. Another girl came in and they gave her fucking morphine or some other highly sedative opiate and she was literally nodding out. She was asleep for 2 whole days and nobody did anything to help her. It honestly sickens me how people are treated in psychiatric wards. I truly believe the treatment received is the reason why so many people end up returning and ththeir condition only worsens.
I’m 15 years old and I’ve been thinking about admitting to a mental hospital. But I’m scared to tell my mother of my decision of wanting to do so. She doesn’t know but I am depressed and have been depressed for maybe over a month and it won’t go away, I’ve taken tests to make sure that it was actually depression and not something else. How do I tell her that I want to admit after having this feeling for the third time. I don’t want to hurt her or for her to ask me any questions.
Hi, you can also talk confidentially with your guidance counselor at school. They can steer you towards resources offered by the school, including a psychologist. Before asking to go to a hospital, maybe ask to see a psychiatrist. Letting a mental health professional make recommendations may help get your mother on board. Of course if you feel like an immediate danger to yourself, ask to go to an ER, or call 911.
If it was me I would talk to your mom and see if she would be willing to let you talk to a therapist. I have before and there is nothing to be afraid of, Of course some are better then others so a bit of research might help narrow it down but they have helped me and they treat you like a human not a patient.
I am a nurse and worked in mental health for most of my life. I totally agree with you and definitely agree that nurses need to be empathetic and more compassionate. I hope you will read some of the things on my website and especially this one. We all need to learn from our patients. Some of my valuable lessons are from my patients. Thanks.
Hi Natasha, my first visit to a Psych Ward was when I was highly suicidal, lethargic and in general mentally unwell, hence, after 15+ years of battling my demons alone I was diagnosed with Bipolar (type 2 at the time but that has since been revised to type 1). My over-arching memory of that first hospitalisation was the feeling of paranoia, something I don’t generally experience. The paranoia wasn’t related to my illness, but to the fact here I was, a person who was totally ok (I wasn’t ill, in my mind at least), being locked up as an involuntary patient, in a ward full of ‘crazies’. (At the time I had no knowledge of mental health/illness other than the sensationalised stories in the media).
As an ‘experience, it was terrifying. The following day I was put on a cocktail of medication which I had to line up for and then be checked to make sure I had swallowed it with no idea of why and no idea of what the actual medications were. As for the staff, nurses, doctors and others, I found a wide mixture of professionalism, antagonism and indifference. I don’t really remember ‘seeing’ any doctors other than the one I saw as I was admitted. One thing I do remember clearly was talking to another patient about how I was feeling and from them, finding out that a physical issue I was having was a side-effect of the medications, this was despite my having discussed it with the nursing staff.
I jut stayed in Kingwood Pines and don’t go 2 of my freinds got punched for standing up for another a lot of them were rude and some girl was phsyco and seeing things and she would say to hereself (her name ) you shouldent do that you shouldent gift them and the therapy’s made you admit your deep darkest secrets to Strangers maybe other are better but don’t go to Kingwood Pines
Hi, I was wonder what would the different between a three day stay and a one day stay is? Because I was told two different things about how long I would have to stay at a mental hospital, depending on my situation.
Visited a mental hosportal 4 times at 4 different hospitals due to bipolar disorder and suicide attempts and I can tell you from personal experince that these places are sick. The staff are terrible to the patients. The doctor shows up for maybe am hour once a week to talk to the patients and make a 5 minute assessment and prescribe to them whaybis often the wrong thing. I've gotten better on my own without visiting these horrible places and done research on medications and the condition I suffered from to make sure i was taking what was right for me. If you care about a loved one don't send them to a hospital. Consult a doctor outised of a hospital. Also, without insurance you'll be getting a hefty bill for nothing but a few days of poor medical practice and disgusting food and a very unclean environment.
Completely understand after being admitted for a suicide attempt and wa repeatedly beaten and raped for the 72 hours stay required. Husband, Police, my doctor did nothing. No one believes a crazy person.
I'm extremely sorry you had such horrible experiences. That should never happen to anyone, ever. I hope you are getting help for the trauma you survived. There are people who will believe you.
Call these people for help: Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network (RAINN) 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673).
- Natasha Tracy
Never take a loved one to a mental health facility. I will preach against it for the rest of my life.
I went to work after suffering a severe panic attack and instead of sending me to a hospital, I was immediately cuffed and taken to a mental health facility. I obviously refused the medications so I was a normal person in a mental health facility. What I saw happening to the patients completely changed my view on humanity. I saw patients literally passing out from the medications and the lack of care from the health care professionals left me speechless. They were all desensitized. It was basically a mad house. The doctors and nurses didn't know who their patients were.
What I saw has changed me forever. Several of the patients told me they were sexually assaulted and it hurt me to know that some patients had no loved ones coming to check up on them. I now have nothing but empathy for every human being I meet.
I'm sorry you went through that and saw that. You're right in that it absolutely isn't right and not how you treat another human being. I wanted to say, though, not all facilities are like that. Many are amazing places for recovery and many credit them as the positive turning point in their path to wellness. While I have no doubt you experienced what you did, it's not the same everywhere.
- Natasha Tracy
Where can I find your next article, I have my son in a mental hospital. They said they recommend residential but I’m confused. I don’t know if I really want to see him there. He’s been getting worse and I’m in the military and have to move to another state in which I will find out next month in May. I also have an
What kind of information are you looking for?
- Natasha Tracy
It's funny that you just ignored my earlier comment Natasha. Like it doesn't even matter..I'm just asking for an opinion...
I'm sorry if you felt I ignored your comment. I simply didn't have an opinion I wished to share.
- Natasha Tracy
I want to be admitted to a mental hospital
Anyone can walk into an ER and say they need admittance to a facility for their own protection. Doctors will assess whether this is necessary, of course, but if you feel strongly that you need it, I recommend you talk to a doctor and make that clear either through an appointment or through an ER.
You can also call a helpline for advice and help: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
- Natasha Tracy
Hi. So how do you feel about privacy laws being changed in wards? Like for me i hate my body and don't want anyone to see me nude. I've been admitted and making me strip in front of a total stranger, a camera, and a open door just made things worse. I thought these places were meant to help people, not make them hate themselves more...privacy isn't respected in those places, that's one of the worst issues about them.
Hi, friend. Just wanted to let you know that if someone requires you to reveal your body to them when you do not want to, it is sexual assault. And it's awful. And legal. And still not right. I just want you to know that your feelings of invasion are 100% valid. You did not deserve that, and they were absolutely in the wrong, to make you do that.
From my experience psych wards are busy, dangerous, tense, supportive, and chaotic. I stayed at one with 47 beds 3 times and there was a code white each day. I don't know what the average person thinks but I can relate to your description. Nurses are busy and overworked and generally grumpy. Although I did have one nurse who said she took the same meds as me and we talked about that. The doctor told me the point was to get me stable on meds and that's it. It think it would be nice if there were psychological therapies aswell. The food was a 6/10. Lasagna was my favorite.
I also had a few stays at a regional 'mental health centre' and it was quick different. There were only about 20 beds in my unit so it was much quieter. Patients were generally more stable so fewer code whites although when there was one the nurse swarmed big time and wore face guards for spitting. I still cant get those memories out of my head. I have seem doctors call code whites for nothing at all. A patient can refuse to speak to the doctor and all of a sudden she calls a code white and the poor patient is given a needle.
I think psych wards need way more money to build more space and make the wards nicer looking and may more private rooms. I was in a room with 3 other people. Gross.
I'm no opposed to involuntary admission but I think if there going to do they have a responsibility to make the experience as positive as possible. Again, more financial investment would go a long way.
You can also call them psychiatric wards, or psych wards. Seems a little less daunting to me
So recently I've been depressed and suicidal and my mom said if I continue to hurt myself she can "check me in at a clinic somewhere" so basically a mental hospital. From my perspective, it's basically a prison for mentally ill people with no privacy once so ever. Now, reading this, I'm more releaved. However, if I ever end up going to one of those places, which I hope to god I won't—I think it'll be the worst experience of my life. Should I not be so worried?
I can understand your fear, really. But I honestly think you don't need to be so worried. Yes, some people have bad experiences, I know that, but many have positive experiences. Either way, there is no reason to worry now -- just work on getting better outside of a hospital if you can.
- Natasha Tracy
I still have some nightmares from staying there. I volunteerly admitted myself there (I regret it to this day)-It freaked me out staying there and all the staff believed I was normal and was wondering why I was there. It wasn't relaxing (more of a nightmare)-talked to the staff to get through it. The doctor came once in a while. There was a patient that kicked a chair against a wall. My roommate was crazy (and dangerous) and was taken into another room and locked up. The doctor wasn't very good, kept making me stay longer and wanted to up the dosage of anti-depressants (it blocked me from crying). It was a locked mental hospital (can only go out 30 minutes a day for physical activity). Personally I would rather go on a retreat or see a therapist than go to a mental hospital ever again or just see a movie or a concert. It cost a lot of money to stay there. Personally I would rather go on vacation, see a museum for the cost of it. There were no mirrors (I didn't know why).
It felt like my home life. I wasn't allowed to go anywhere. It felt like a prison.
I'm very sorry you had that experience. I will say, all facilities are not the same and many are far from that.
- Natasha Tracy
ive been there not allowed to shut the door and the nurses are [moderated] you have to wear an outfit so bad so that you might as well be naked. You have you bag checked before you step foot and they snatched my necklaces and phone litteraly from me and sayed we dont tollerate teens going do i need to call my friend to bust me out? They also sayed that i can't have my necelace because im gonna choke myself wit them
I know how hard some wards can be. Depending on where you are and the circumstances under which you were admitted, things can be very strict.
And while I know this must be frustrating, it is for your safety as a patient. Yes, you could choke yourself with your necklaces. Maybe you never would, but the nurses can't know that and can't take that chance.
I know these things that are for your safety are hard to accept, but remember, you won't be there forever. Try to get better while you have those safeguards around you. That's what everyone wants.
- Natasha Tracy
The worst experience in life is when a person that you care about commits suicide. Folks, there are patient rights. INVOKE THE RIGHT TO BE TREATED WITH RESPECT. You may need an outside advocate to help make the call to the state.
Hi I have had cripling depression 2 and never gone but my mom thinks I should go my freind whent to a mental hospital this year and didn't have good thing to say im scarred should I go or should I stay home?
I can't tell you what to do as this is a very personal question. What I can say is that you should research any facility you might choose to stay at and see what their programs are like.
I can also tell you that some people consider their stay in a mental hospital to be the positive turning point in their treatment that they needed.
That said, not every stay is positive, so you need to decide for yourself if it's right for you.
- Natasha Tracy
i know i will be going to a mental hospital when i grow up right not im still at a young age. I know i will go their because i think of these things that i want to do and these things are not good and its to the point where i would go to a mental hospital not a prison but i hate talking to therapist even though i never went i dont like to take drugs at all i think about things normal people would think im insane. i just wanted to share this i please reply back on what i should do. Btw i am a girl but i will give u a different name
Thanks for your comment. I'm sorry to hear you feel that way. Honestly, the best thing you can do is reach out for help from a doctor or psychotherapist. I know you said you don't like talking to therapists, but you need to reach out for help in order to get better. It's worth it.
- Natasha Tracy
Well thanks for the comment but i will not talk to anybody i would rather be forced into it that have the choice and i have made the choice i am going to live the way i want but i know it will not be good for me i hate my life but i love myself so i will make it better and do what i want to do and there is no way i am going to a doctor or a psychotherapist so is there anything else if not then im going to regret my desision the rest of my life. I am young still and im am a girl and i will give you a fake name.
I’m in an ER and I tried to overdose and puked up blood and when I got here in the waiting room and I nearly fainted. I am about to ride in an ambulance with our choice to go to a mental hospital what should I be expecting? I’m kind of nervous after reading this because it sounds more negative the way you worded it than positive
It's hard to say exactly what will happen when you reach your psychiatric hospital. I would expect some sort of an intake, but I don't know how much of that might have already been done in the ER. Both your mental and physical health will be assessed.
After that, they will probably tell you about the rules of the hospital -- they are all different -- and then slowly work you into the routine of the facility.
See, all mental health facilities are different and some people have a very positive experience with them. Believe me when I tell you, a stay in a mental hospital is sometimes the best thing and can absolutely turn your treatment in a positive direction.
It's natural to be scared, but remember, these people are professionals that are there to help you.
- Natasha Tracy
Hi.. I used an anonymous name as what I’m going to discuss is rather personal... however I feel I really need this... so.. I’m 15. When I was younger.. around 7 or 8 I was... raped.. by a babysitter... god I hate that word... but, I read this because.. since then I’ve been dealing with the trauma on my own... I can’t seem to find a healthy way to deal with this and I’ve just about given up... at this point I don’t care if I die or not... in my eyes I see it like well.. I won’t be happy but I won’t have to deal with this every second of my stupid life... I barely get sleep at night as I suffer from nightmares, and flashbacks are a constant reminder of it... no matter what I do it’s like it’s controlling my life... destroying me... I want it to stop... I want this all to stop! But.. it’s not that easy... that’s why I began looking into mental hospitals... I have a fear of it to be honest... going to one that is.. so I decided to gain some insight on what it’s really like... and I’d like to ask if it’s what would help me... I’m ready to seek the help.. I am in need of it... would a mental hospital be too much... perhaps I should simply see a psycologist?... I don’t know what to do...
A mental hospital is usually for people who are a danger to themselves or others. If you haven't tried seeking out a psychologist who specializes in dealing with trauma, you should definitely do that. Also, there are groups that specialize in helping those in your situation, too. Try calling a helpline for more information: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
Don't give up. I have been sexually assaulted too, but I have gotten past it and so can you with help.
- Natasha Tracy
Recovery from what happened to you needs healing. You can have your life back. You can process what happened to you and let it go. Find a Christian church that will help you put your faith in God and let him LOVE YOU. God will heal YOU if you let him. Understand that this will take time. There are so many caring Loving people in this world. Your experience saddens my heart. You are Loved and You can heal from this experience. Have you ever heard LET GO LET GOD? This means you focus on you and not what happened to you focus on recovery. When my mind gets filled with things I can't control I journal. It really helps because you can let it go. Stop the constant reminders of your pain. Write it do and let it go. Journal will help you look back and remind yourself to look forward and always always remember YOU ARE LOVED!
I would like to be admitted to a mental hospital
I want to negotiate to be put in a mental hospital I will sign a contract
If you'd like to be admitted to a hospital, walk into an ER and talk to them. Maybe do some research on which facility is best for you before you do that. Also, see where your insurance is taken.
You can also call a helpline and ask them about the best way to be admitted: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
- Natasha Tracy
Im 15, I've always suffered from mental disorders my whole life (my anxiety, depression was first noticed when i was 4, but diagnosed much later on at 14), i've dropped out of multiple schools and i find daily tasks that involve leaving the house too overwhelming. I still haven't found good help but i want to get my life sorted, i've never been to a mental hospital before, but I am not in school right now and I feel like it might be a good place to sort myself out and maybe get some work done. Do you think it would help me if i checked myself into a hospital? Are mental hospitals the sort of places that can help you get back on the right track academically as well as emotionally?
Mental hospitals are all different so it's hard to say what any one could do for you. You can research specific facilities and consider whether they are right for you.
What you might consider is a partial hospitalization program (also known as a day program). Generally, people are only admitted to a hospital when there is a danger. An outpatient program, though, is an intense program that can help you while you live at home. It's probably more appropriate for you.
Talk to a doctor about your options.
- Natasha Tracy
YOU made a good step reaching out...use resources...gain knowledge....remember when you look at reviews and read other peoples experiences that those are NOT you. My daughter is 19 and she is in college . She suffers from anxiety and depression. Continue your education is very important. See if there is a school that you can do online. This will give you a sense of accomplishment at your own speed. The pressures in Life can be overwhelming. My daughter started taking yoga (also you can do online) listening to calm peaceful music. Praying to God for help for STRENGTH , COURAGE and WISDOM to help you manage your anxiety and depression. YOU are LOVED and GOD is there for YOU. GOD is listening. Journal and write down how your feeling and why . It helps me when I have things weighing on my mind. I write it sown and then I let it go. There are certain things that TRIGGER certain feelings...try to figure out exact things that make you anxious and depressed then....find ways to help you process the feelings.....deep breathe....go to your room and sing....play happy songs...drink tea with no caffeine but that calms you. My daughter is 19 but she still enjoys good Disney movies they make her happy. YOU CAN....BE POSITIVE....FOCUS ON YOU....KNOW THAT YOU ARE LOVED!