by Tammy Ozolins
The Mental Health epidemic is on the rise and I know many people of all age ranges are dealing with mental health issues. I know trying to get help can be quite challenging and this unfortunately is a reason why some people do not seek help. The realization of this came true when I was helping a friend who needed to check into a facility.
I have been hospitalized twice in my life due to bipolar disorder. One was for a suicide watch and the other time because I was having a manic episode and had been up for 5 days straight. For both of my hospitalizations, I decided to check myself in. It was a tough decision to make and looking back at both times I can say it took a lot of courage as well. I understand the frustration. I want to give some tips on what to expect whether you are checking in or helping someone check in.
Checking yourself into the psych hospital:
#1 Be prepared to have a long wait and expect that your emotions will be all over the place if you are checking yourself in.
I checked myself in through the ER both times and it was several hours before I was taken up to a room. Both times I remember a nurse asking me a bunch of questions and then leaving and I was just sitting in there in the ER. However, I needed to remind myself I was safe, and that I was doing the right thing.
# 2. What to pack?
Do not bring anything with strings or laces, or they will have you remove them. Bring the bare minimum for toiletries. Since I was a cutter, they took my face wash, etc. any things with sharp edges on them. NO, cellphones are allowed, so write down numbers, you can call from a phone inside the facility.
#3. Be prepared for the staff to not always have empathy for you or your situation.
This happened to me in my first hospital. I had to undress and the nurse saw all my cuts and made the comment, “So you are a cutter.” I looked at her and said, “You are a b****.” I told her I was there to get help, not to be judged. Now, on the second visit when I was taken upstairs (with a security guard) the nurse there was an angel I had been cutting a lot and the cuts were fresh, and when she saw them, she was kind about getting me help. She cared and showed it and spoke kindly to me.
#4. Get the most treatment you can out of your stay.
I took part in group therapy and hearing other stories helped me and even showed me that there are other people out there dealing with a lot more than I was. I did individual therapy and was honest with my doctor. I learned new coping skills and kept myself busy which made the time I was there better.
#5- Take what you learned and use it. My first time I just went thru the motions and really did not listen to what help was given to me. It was my second time in the hospital where I ACCEPTED my diagnosis and where my recovery really began. I really took the coping skills and put them to use–group and individual therapy, journaling, meds, etc.
Tips for checking someone into the psych ward:
#1- Be prepared for a long wait.
I helped checked a friend in through the ER and we got there at 12:30 pm and I did not leave till 7:30 pm that night. I learned I had to be patient, especially now since the hospitals are short-staffed.
#2. Keep the person calm.
I know when I checked myself in, I was a wreck. I was crying, angry then fine–a big ball of emotions. Thank goodness my family and friend were there to calm me down. Stay positive with that person, keep giving them hope, and support their decision to get help Do NOT leave until you know that person is safe.
#3. Be prepared to be left outside in the waiting room.
Unless you are a minor, you probably will not be allowed to go back with that person (even when that person is speaking to the Psych doctor). My friend was texting me to keep me informed. If you are in the waiting room for a while, you can go up to the desk and ask for updates.
#4. That person may not get checked into a room right away.
My friend said they were keeping her, but she would have to spend the night in the ER room until the next day when a room would be available. She ended up being transported to a different hospital since no bed opened in that hospital.
It is tough right now, but your life and your loved one’s life is worth getting the help. Will there be headaches and frustrations? Yes. But do not give up and keep that hope alive.