Your First Stay at a Psychiatric Hospital

Please note: This is based solely on my experiences at two separate psychiatric hospitals. I cannot speak for other psychiatric hospitals and their policies.

In March of 2015, when the ER doctor told me I would be admitted to a local psychiatric hospital, I was terrified. I had never been in a psych hospital before, and I had no idea what to expect. All I knew about psych hospitals was what movies and television shows had taught me. I was led to believe psych hospitals were only for the crazy, but what kind of word is “crazy” anyways? Who would be defined as crazy? Was I crazy for wanting to end my life?

What I experienced during my first stay at a psychiatric hospital was nothing like I expected. It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t horrible, either. This was not a place for the “crazy,” this was a place for the broken, for the bruised, for the mending.

April held two more hospitalizations, May held another, July held another, September held another and January of 2016 was my most recent stent at a psychiatric hospital.

So I want to tell you, you who is scared, ashamed and overwhelmed after being told you are being admitted to a psych hospital for the first time, it is going to be OK. You are not crazy, you are not “mental,” you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. People go to the hospital when their bodies are sick, and no one judges them for that. You are going to a psych hospital because your mind is sick, and that’s OK. That is more than OK.

Many people will expect you to be “better” or “fixed” when you leave the hospital for the first time. I want you to know this is not realistic nor should it ever be expected in the first place. Psych hospitals are not a long-term solution. They exist simply to stabilize you and keep you safe when you are a danger to yourself. The journey of healing is a long one and is certainly not easy. However, being admitted to a psychiatric hospital can be a valuable first step in your journey.

Psychiatric hospitals do have a lot of rules and may not always have the best of accommodations. Most will take your shoe laces, strings, belts, etc., for your own safety. You are usually not allowed anymore than three outfits. I would recommend bringing comfortable clothing — sweatpants, sweatshirts, pajamas, fuzzy socks. Hospitals are often cold. In my experience, you are not allowed to bring any blankets, stuffed animals, etc., but you can bring notebooks and books (no hard covers). Make sure to write down the phone numbers of your loved ones so you can call them. Books were my saving grace — gave me something to do and kept my mind occupied.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

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