8 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went Inpatient at a Psychiatric Hospital

My freshman year of high school, I was admitted into an adolescent psychiatric unit for 11 days. Those days spent in the hospital gave me time to think and reflect on how I ended up hitting rock bottom. The days spent there were long and the nights felt even longer, but being there saved my life.

Obviously different hospitals have different conditions, and I can only speak from my own experience, but here are some things I wish I knew before I was admitted to inpatient:

1. Be honest at your intake, these people are here to help you.

Before you enter the hospital you will have an intake. If you are under 18 like I was, you will have a parent present. This is probably the most awkward part of the entire experience. You are in a small room with a doctor and your parents, sharing your life story with someone you have never met. When you are completing your intake, you need to be honest and unashamed because the more you tell the doctor, the better they will understand your illness and be able to help you.

2. Don’t be scared.

Psychiatric hospitals have a lot of stigma attached to them. Although it is scary at first, in my experience it isn’t that bad. It is a safe place for you to get better and receive the help you need and deserve.

3. Listen to other peoples’ stories.

Even though you are there to take care of yourself, take the time to listen to what other people are dealing with. It will help you gain a new perspective on your own life. It also makes you realize you are not alone.

4. Bring a journal.

Journaling is something that helped me tremendously during my stay. Whenever anything happened to me, I wrote it down. I now look back at that journal and realize how far I have come. It is interesting to see what I was thinking during that time.

5. Prepare to entertain yourself.

There really aren’t many activities to do on the units. I know on my unit the TV only had three channels and all the windows were covered. The days are long so you need to keep yourself busy. During my stay, I completed a 1,000 piece puzzle with the other kids and we even had bridge building contests with things we found in the community room.

6. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, tell someone.

When people have these kind of thoughts, they often keep them to themselves because they are ashamed. The staff and doctors are there to help you and the only way you can get better is if you are honest and express how you are feeling. Trust that they will help you through it.

7. Don’t worry about school or responsibilities.

You should not be worried about your responsibilities or school while you are in the hospital. I spent so much time worrying about how much school work I was missing that I forgot to think about myself. The only thing that matters during this time is your health. Everything will work out in the end, but you need to be mentally healthy for that to happen.

8. Work hard and don’t lose hope.

When you are admitted, you need to open up and be honest. No one is going to judge you. The more you talk about your issues, the more feedback you will receive. If you keep everything bottled up, your discharge could be postponed. And always remember, this is not the end for you. Eventually you will get better and you will be able to go home. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, but you need to work hard to reach it.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via sudok1

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