Facts you need to know before being admitted to a mental health unit
Admission to a psychiatric facility can be done in one of two ways. Either you accept yourself as a voluntary patient, or you sign up, as they say; or you are admitted as an involuntary patient, under some kind of “protection order” by police, doctors or therapists. In some states, even a concerned family member may involuntarily admit you for evaluation.
As a voluntary patient, you actively seek help and realize that you are not acting responsibly. You may even fear that you will act rashly and possibly hurt yourself or others. In any case, you want to be in the mental hospital and get help.
- What to expect as a “voluntary” patient-
- You will be allowed to sign all admission documents.
- You will work with your doctor, therapist, and nurse to develop your care plan
- You are expected to attend all groups and activities designated for your treatment
- You can ask to be released when you feel better
As an involuntary patient, someone else has petitioned the legal community to be evaluated for a period of 24 to 72 hours in a psychiatric facility based on specific behaviors and statements. You may or may not know what is going on; you may or may not want to be there, but the fact is that you will be held “against your will” until a doctor has evaluated you and determined that you are no longer a threat to yourself or others. As an involuntary patient, someone else has petitioned the legal community to be evaluated for a period of 24 to 72 hours in a psychiatric facility based on specific behaviors and statements. You may or may not know what is going on; you may or may not want to be there, but the fact is that you will be held “against your will” until a doctor has evaluated you and determined that you are no longer a threat to yourself or others.
- What to expect as an “involuntary” patient-
- You may be allowed to sign some of the admission papers, but you don’t need to sign in yourself
- You can work with your doctor, nurse, and therapist to develop a plan of care, but you may not be able to do this during admission
- You will be expected to attend all groups and activities designated for your treatment, even if you do not want to or do not agree that you should.
- You can’t expect to be discharged just because you asked to leave
- What to Expect as a Patient in a Psychiatric Facility-
- The first difference you’ll notice is that few rooms are private.
- There are no phones in the rooms. Family and friends will need to provide some code # before they are allowed to visit or before they are allowed to talk to you on the phone.
- There are no TVs in the rooms. You will watch TV in a living area and it will be a communal activity.
- Your belongings will be inspected and several items that you regularly use at home will not be allowed in the units. Some things will be allowed but must be monitored when used.
- You will not be allowed to stay in bed all day.
- You will wear regular clothes instead of hospital gowns. Some of your favorite clothes will not be allowed in the unit due to the presence of some type of string/belt or the type of decoration on them (no violent t-shirts, drugs or gang emblems). Your shoelaces will be removed, as will any belts.
- You can expect officers to monitor your location every 15 minutes for a 24-hour period, including at night.
- You will attend groups with people from all walks of life; some won’t make much sense; some may not look very clean and nice.
- If you lose control of your behavior – or become so angry that you act out or become detached from reality – staff will step in to help you regain control.
- You will be encouraged to talk about your thoughts and feelings with the staff.
- You will be asked questions on a regular basis that relate to your ability to keep yourself safe. The staff will actively monitor you to ensure your safety and security during your stay.
- The staff will not be put off by anything you say or do and will actively want to help you find solutions to your problems.
- What not to expect as a patient in a psychiatric facility-
- You will not be allowed to break any of the many rules, no matter who you are.
- You can’t be aggressive and get your way.
- You won’t have the undivided attention of any of the staff. At this facility, the staff works in unison as a team and will all engage with you at different times throughout the day.
- Things you tell the staff will not be kept ‘secret’ from the rest of the treatment team. Your privacy will be monitored and your HIPPA rights will be protected, but what is said during treatment will be shared fully with the treatment team to facilitate your improvement.
- You will have no personal contact with staff during or after treatment as a patient.
- You will not visit the ward after discharge to see ‘friends’ made during treatment. Most facilities do not allow former patients to return to see current patients for several months.
- When will you be discharged-
- Discharge will depend on your behavior and willingness to participate in treatment.
- You can ask to leave if you are a voluntary patient, but you may not be allowed to do so because of doctors’ concerns for your safety or the safety of others.
- As an involuntary patient, you may be allowed to sign up if you agree to stay for treatment, or you may have to go to court to have a judge hear both sides of the issue.
- In both cases, there is a certain process that must be followed and will be based on safety considerations and your ability to make safe decisions.
As you can see, there are similarities between medical and psychiatric hospitals – both are staffed by doctors, nurses, social workers and clinical assistants. Both are about improving your condition – either physical (medical) or psychological (psychiatric) – and getting you back to your life as soon as possible. Both provide treatment to facilitate your improvement and offer some type of aftercare plan.
But there is also a significant difference. This is in differences that you may go astray at an already trying time in your life. Hope this clears up some of the confusion for you.
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