belated mental health awareness day post: normalizing being hospitalized for psychiatric issues

Hi everyone,

So by the time I heard that mental health awareness was Monday I believe, I didn’t have the time to make a post and didn’t have my thoughts organized around what exactly I wanted to say.

I feel that overall many more people are becoming aware, and accepting issues of depression, anxiety trauma (especially with all the media around PTSD and veterians) and other mental health issues. Sadly schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dissociative disorders and other lesser known illnesses are still very much misunderstood.

Likewise in terms of treatment it’s becoming the norm that people know what therapy is, that basically anyone can see a therapist and reasons why. Medication is also normalized what with all the drug adds out there.

I’m so happy around how far we have come in these regards. There is always work to be done in all areas. The more people feel empowered to speak about their experiences the more it will be commonplace to discuss the ups and downs of the illness and have it be treated with the same acceptance cancer and diabetes are.

One area I feel many people, even mental health consumers at times, aren’t aware of or don’t fully understandthe use of psychiatric hospitals and the variety of reasons that people of all ages need inpatient care.

I totally admit to this. When I was doing outpatient therapy when living at Friedman Place I was in a community mental health center that worked with all kinds of clients. Ones only coming in for weekly therapy and others who have severe chronic issues and need daily help. From my case workers, I had a few as is common in the system, I heard about clients being hospitalized and one even had worked as a tech, a sort of all purpose counselor who monitors the unit in general. I asked her many many questions. My fears actually were around patients being physically out of control and attacking both other patients and staff. I pictured a place full of people just totally out of it emotionally where there was no peace just total emotional and mental chaos. I worried less about things like restraining and the quiet room because from what I did know these things had been phaised out.

I felt better when on my e-mail list we struck up a thread about being hospitalized in general and as a blind person in particular. I learned from several people that hospital experiences like anything else depend on the person’s perceptions and emotional state around why they were hospitalized, the unit, and staff there. I learned about the daily orderly schedule, groups that give tools/ connection among patients and how well the staff try and provide physical and emotional safety in a calm way.

I was impressed but still doubted things but didn’t think a whole lot more about it. Until November 8 2013 when I was sent inpatient after an attempt in progress, very little progress at that point but still. I felt like my life was over and was soo depressed and overwhelmed I almost wouldn’t have cared if someone hurt me. I didn’t want to be conscious and talking with anyone so whatever.

That experience proved to be so healing. All the staff dr.s nurses tech were amazingly understanding and stuck with me through some pretty bad meltdowns. But in terms of over all care and climate of the place it was very theraputic.

This matches up with experiences I’ve heard from others. That on a positive spin, getting to go to a good well run psych unit for a length of time, sometimes only 72 hours, sometimes as long as two weeks, can be just what’s needed for someone needing urgent and ongoing as in all day care and support in gaining skills adjusting or starting meds, and then hopefully being discharged with an outpatient treatment plan.

So literally anyone could be hospitalized if they meet criteria for a suicide plan or are at risk of harming others. Many choose to bring themselves in knowing they need that level of care but the systems for admission are very confusing and often people are dismissed and feel worse. Like I said every single hospital unit is different. Every staff is different. Sometimes the care you get depends on what’s ggoing on in your outpatient world too. Like if someone has a psychiatrist or therapist they can make the call around whether you should be admitted. So inpatient care could be very helpful for people dealing with any mental illness in it’s chronic form, to have a pretty good idea of when the hospital could be helpful.

This is just speaking to my own experience and others I know well. Like anything else there are terrible units, or less than ideal or ya know anything on the spectrum. In bad units I’ve experienced a total lack of schedule because they never knew when the one psychiatrist would be there. The norm being people laying in bed or in the dayroom watching tv or coloring or playing cards. Really not theraputic. One stay I had been in the process of an attempt and literally in the over a week I was there no one talked to me about it at all. I was just increased/ taken off a med (with no tapering) and that was it.

With anything else having an open mind is important. It could be helpful or terrible depending on the moment. Someone could be inpatient only once in their life around a specific terrible time like losing a loved one, substance abuse, things just building up and hitting a crisis where they have no other resources. Ideally it is a short term theraputic environment where one can recharge asses their whole situation and get a plan of action. Unfortunately sometimes this doesn’t happen. And the crazy managed care system doesn’t make this anywhere near easy.

So if you hear about someone going inpatient or someone confides or wants your help getting there please be open and supportive to their experience. Ultametily it’s their choice most of the time whether they go in or not, whether they want visitors or calls ETC. Have them lead the way in talking about the experience as it can often be hard to say or listen to as the subject isn’t generally discussed. This is why I wrote this and hope I’ve articulated what the experience is like in general. Hoping that if someone reads this and is considering going inpatient they’ll feel less afraid. And if you know someone where this has been something they’ve gone through you’re more educated to provide support. Others who have been inpatient would love your thoughts. Or anyones. ,

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2 thoughts on “belated mental health awareness day post: normalizing being hospitalized for psychiatric issues

  1. Reblogged this on Therapy Bits and commented:
    I encourage all of you to read this post. This is my friend sam writing on being admitted to a psych unit, she wrote this for world mental health day 2016. Her blog is really good, I encourage all of you to follow it, she is blind, and has depression, anxiety, ptsd and struggles with self harm.

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