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The number of people with mental health conditions who need to spend time in a hospital or treatment center is very small. An individual may need to be hospitalized for a period of time so that they can be closely monitored and accurately diagnosed, have their medications adjusted or stabilized, or monitored during an acute episode when their mental illness temporarily worsens.
You may wonder why hospitalization is being considered and if it's the best option under the circumstances. Hospitalization reduces the stress of daily responsibilities for a brief period of time, which allows you to concentrate on your recovery. As your crisis lessens, and you are better able to care for yourself, you can begin planning for your discharge. In-patient care is not designed to keep you confined indefinitely; the goal is to maximize independent living by using the appropriate level of care for your specific illness.
There are also times when a person becomes so ill that they are at risk of hurting themselves or others and hospitalization becomes necessary even though the individual does not wish to enter a hospital. While seeking help voluntarily is always preferable, take into consideration that a family member may have to make the decision to hospitalize you involuntarily. This act can be more caring than it seems if that is the only way you can get the care you need, especially if there is a risk of suicide or harm to others.
Your treatment options depend on the level of care you will need to receive. Who administers that care depends on where you go to seek treatment. Listed below are several different types of facilities that offer different levels of care:
It can be helpful to talk with your psychiatrist or therapist, your local Mental Health America affiliate, or members of area support groups for recommendations when choosing an in-patient or residential treatment facility. In addition, you can consult the resources listed below to assist you in your search.
If your hospitalization is voluntary, or if your psychiatrist prescribes hospitalization, take the time to learn more about the recommended facility in which you will be receiving treatment. Call the facility in advance to learn about admission procedures, daily schedules, what items you can and cannot bring, and any other day-to-day policies you want to know about. You should also inquire about check-out procedures. Different rules apply depending on how you were admitted.
After you read each section below, review the lists of common questions that come up at different points of hospitalization. Feel free to ask some of these questions ahead of time in an effort to help you feel more acquainted with the treatment facility and its procedures. The more comfortable you feel, the easier it may be to comply with your psychiatrist's recommendations for treatment.
Below are some questions you can ask regarding check-in at the treatment facility:
Before your treatment can begin, you will undergo a complete physical examination to determine the overall state of your health. The information collected during this examination, and the information collected during the initial evaluation will be considered when building your treatment plan.
You have the right to have your treatment explained to you in order to be informed of the benefits and risks, and you have the right to refuse treatment if you feel uncomfortable or if you feel it is unsafe. You also have the right to have your health information protected and kept private through confidentiality. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule gives you rights over your health information and sets rules on who can look at and receive your health information. For more information on HIPAA, visit http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/consumers/index.html.
Below are some questions you can ask regarding your stay at the treatment facility:
If you were admitted voluntarily, you may have the option of checking out against medical advice; which, in other words means, if you feel you are ready to leave the hospital on your own without a "green light" from your doctor, you maybe be allowed to go. However, if your hospitalization was court ordered, or if a family member admitted you involuntarily, you will need to complete an evaluation process to determine if you are in a condition to care for yourself outside of 24-hour inpatient care. Every facility has different policies and procedures, so check with the facility in which you are seeking or receiving care.
Below are some questions you can ask regarding your discharge:
For more information on ways to maintain wellness after discharge from the hospital, please visit the section titled "Wellness after Hospitalization" on the DBSA web site on Understanding Hospitalization for Mental Health.
An advance directive is a written legal document that expresses your wishes about what types of treatments, services and other assistance you want or don't want during times when you are having difficulty communicating or making decisions. It provides a clear statement of your medical treatment preferences and other wishes and instructs providers of care. You can also use it to grant legal decision-making authority to another person, also called an "agent", to be your advocate at times when you cannot make decisions for yourself. For more information on psychiatric advance directives and how to prepare one, click here.