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What to Know If You Are Afraid of Staying on the Psych Ward

When people hear the words “psych ward,” many thoughts come to mind. These are sometimes negative and stigmatized, creating fear for those considering going to the hospital for mental illness. Even though I was scared to go initially, my experience in a psych ward kept me safe, got me the treatment I needed and taught me many lessons about mental illness and people. Here are some of the lessons I learned.

1. It’s OK to be struggling and to be open with someone about your hurt.

Normally, I’ve worked extremely hard to hide my mental health struggles. Even when I have shared with trusted friends, I avoid direct words such as “suicidal” and instead hint at my feelings. Avoiding the words seemed to decrease my anxiety and helped me hide my issues. However, this caused me to deny my problems and my hurt, not getting the support I needed. In the psych ward, many patients had similar struggles. It was a relief to be transparent with others about sensitive topics. Since being discharged, I’ve been working on being more transparent. Several friends and coworkers asked me where I had been. I’m still working on setting the right boundaries and finding a balance; I don’t have to tell every stranger my deepest secrets. Usually, though, that’s not the problem. I’m learning not to lie about my mental illness, which only increases the shame and the stigma surrounding mental health.

2. Life is valuable and people deeply matter.

Hearing other patients’ stories and reasons to be in the ward made my heart hurt. Their stories were full of suffering and perseverance. As hard as this was, it was beautiful that the room was full of people who fought against their fears and reached out for help. As I got to know them better, I saw how each person had a unique personality and valuable life experiences. I was touched how all these wonderful people might not have been here if it wasn’t for the help we received at the psych ward. Live in such a way that people know they matter. Remind people they were created with worth. Please, treat everyone with respect and love. 

3. Seeking help is not something to be embarrassed for. It’s an act of bravery.

I was so scared to call my friend to help drive me to the hospital. I was shaking and overflowing with anxiety the whole day. But, I still went and it was exactly what I needed. The safety and resources they offered were so important. However, I was still embarrassed to be there and felt weak for needing help. I realized this was absolutely not true when I received calls and cards from friends. They kept on saying how brave I was to seek help. If you think you may need more help, realize it’s normal to be filled with fear. Still, reach out for the help you deserve. This is an act of pure courage. This may be making the first call to start therapy or to stay as an inpatient in the hospital. Both are hard, but I believe each person has bravery deep inside.

4. There are people who genuinely care about you.

Mental illness sometimes lies to us and makes us blinded from the truth. Depression made me feel alone and worthless. I had friends who offered their help but I didn’t want to be a burden to them. My time in the psych ward helped me see how much people care about me and the other patients. I had friends and family who called me, sent me extra clothes and cards and came to visiting hours. I never asked for help, yet they cared for me. The other patients had various types of support systems. Some had a friend visit or had parents who called them every day. Even if you feel like no one in your life cares for you, many others do. Doctors, nurses and other mental health professionals wouldn’t be in their professions if they didn’t care. People who don’t know you care deeply about you because you’re a beautiful human being.

Getty Images photo via KatarzynaBialasiewicz