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So You Were Discharged From the Psych Ward, Now What?

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I have been admitted into inpatient facilities several times, yet it always feels surreal once I’m discharged and back out into the real world. It might not make sense for some individuals, but it was a sort of haven for me. You had nurses who ensured you took your medication precisely, three square meals a day, and peers who could relate. Yet, when back home, I’d resort to isolating and not following a regimen all over again. I knew that I needed to make changes to live a meaningful life. So, here are some suggestions I found helpful for me.

1. Follow your inpatient stay with a partial hospitalization program (PHP).

When my mother went into inpatient in the 1970s, her average stay was about a month. Once discharged, there weren’t many resources outside of seeing a therapist. However, times have changed, and typically (in my experiences), your inpatient therapist will set you up with a partial hospitalization program (PHP) immediately upon discharge to ensure your safety — usually the following day.

PHP is a day program where therapists and medical providers treat individuals who struggle with mental illness and substance use disorders. These groups run for several hours, three to five days a week. On average, the length of time in the program can range from several days to a couple of weeks or more, depending on your severity level and who your insurance provider is. It focuses on the individual’s overall treatment to prevent inpatient hospitalization or a step-down from the hospital. I found the program very helpful, and it taught me how to use more effective coping skills.

2. Start or continue individual therapy after hospitalization.

Some individuals might already have a therapist before an inpatient hospitalization. If not, either the therapist at the facility or the partial hospitalization program can help you find one before discharge.

Having a therapist is essential to your mental well-being. Often, our illness comes from something more deep-rooted. And even if it’s not deep-rooted, something brought us to the brink of an inpatient hospitalization.

A good therapist will utilize a client-centered approach, which means you are an equal partner in the therapy process. In other words, their job is to provide you with the necessary tools and not impose judgments or solutions. In contrast, your job is to take the tools provided and do the work required to maintain wellness.

3. See a psychiatrist or prescriber if you’re considering medication.

Not every individual who lives with a mental health issue needs to be on medication, but many of us do, whether short-term, long-term, or indefinitely. Taking medication for one’s mental health is not a character flaw. It keeps the individual healthy and balanced, that’s most important.

It is crucial to take your medication as prescribed, be consistent with the times you take them, ensure you pick up refills before you run out, and not change your regimen or stop taking your medication without talking with your prescriber first. I speak from firsthand experience because I have often gone into inpatient more than once for not following these rules.

I want to stress that we are our own best advocates. Therefore, if a particular medication is causing adverse side effects, you are not feeling the effects after a few weeks, or it doesn’t feel safe taking, please speak up for yourself. You know yourself and your body better than anyone else.

4. Join a peer support group when your inpatient stay ends.

Whether you are struggling with mental health issues, substance use issues, or both, having a peer who can relate can be comforting, especially knowing you are not alone.

Finding a support group that fits your specific needs is beneficial. For example, a group that focuses on depression or bipolar disorder. Or, perhaps you might find Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) to be your niche. If you are uncertain, talk with your therapist to help you find the appropriate resources.

5. Stay connected after you leave the hospital.

There is nothing wrong with wanting alone time, but sometimes we completely isolate ourselves from the world when depressed or anxious, which can lead to inpatient hospitalizations. Therefore, spending some time with friends, family members, or even a community is a great way to stay connected and avoid a downward spiral.

What I found especially helpful was joining a clubhouse, which is a work-focused community for those living with mental health issues and substance disorders. They offer job skills training, employment support, and completing high school or college. They also provide health and wellness activities, along with other community events. Otherwise, you can chat with peers, which is a meaningful way to connect with others.

6. Create and stick with a daily regimen to maintain stability.

It can be more challenging to follow a routine when home without someone nudging you. However, sticking with a regimen is crucial to maintaining stability, including sleep and wake cycle, medication management, and daily activities. I know this is easier said than done, but if you can, take one step at a time. For example, I went from sleeping all day to going to bed earlier to avoid this pattern. I also went from lingering in bed to getting out of my room and sitting on my couch. Now, I get out of bed right away, shower, and get going from there — whether making phone calls, running errands, or taking a walk. However, it wasn’t an overnight process, so I suggest baby steps.

Maintaining Wellness

It took several tries to comprehend I had to continue the work after being discharged from inpatient to prevent further hospitalizations. And though I’m not saying it has been a cure-all, I can at least say it has finally helped me maintain wellness.

Unsplash image by Apollo Reyes

Originally published: March 20, 2022
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