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5 Things to Know About Staying in a Psychiatric Hospital

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There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding and sometimes a lot of fear surrounding psychiatric hospitals. But hospitals aren’t new to me — I’ve been a psych patient for over 10 years.

To clear up some misconceptions — and give some advice to anyone who may have a hospital stay in their future — here are five things I want people to know about psychiatric hospitals.

1. Your first time can be scary. 

The first time I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, I was 15 and had just attempted suicide. I was terrified. Not only was I in a strange place, but I was newly diagnosed with a mental illness. Coming to terms with a diagnosis while also being in a totally unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people is tough. Not only that, psychiatric hospitals can be so full of rules and regulations you might end up feeling like a naughty child. But try to remember: this is a safe place with people who are trying to care for you. I’ve personally found most of the nurses and doctors to be extremely kind.

2. It’s not like the hospitals you see on TV or in scary movies.

Straight jackets. I keep looking, but I’ve never seen them. I’ve also never seen a padded room. There are no lobotomies taking place. No constant screaming. I’ve never seen a doctor or nurse be cruel to a patient. I did see someone being restrained once, and it wasn’t particularly forceful — it was more for their own safety. You know, I’ve actually found psychiatric hospitals to be quite peaceful and relaxing.

3. The “crazy” people are actually just people.

I hate the term “crazy” to describe people with a mental illness and I hate it to describe people who are in a psychiatric hospital. People in psychiatric hospitals are people with mental illnesses — people who could be suicidal, self-harming, depressed, manic and psychotic. But these are sometimes symptoms of mental illness, and don’t make a person crazy. So don’t worry about whether or not being in a psych hospital makes you a “crazy” person. It doesn’t. It makes you a person with a serious illness who’s making a step towards recovery.

4. You should make the most of it.

You can gain a lot from being hospitalized. Go to group therapy and individual therapy if the hospital offers it. If you need medication, figure out a combination that works for you and then take it. Participate in art therapy and outside time. Talk with the other patients — you may find you can relate to more people than you think. Of course, sometimes you’ll just want to nap and be alone, and that’s fine. I did a lot of that. But by participating in what the hospital has to offer, you can develop a lot of skills that can help once you’re discharged. Participate, reach out and make the most of your time there.

5. You should never be ashamed.

You should never be ashamed about spending time in a psychiatric hospital or seeking treatment for your mental illness. You have a real illness. An illness that does not discriminate, does not pick and choose. You deserve to receive appropriate treatment, and you deserve it without discrimination and without anyone making you feel ashamed.

Originally published: November 4, 2015
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