Hospitalization for Mental Health

If you have a mental health condition, then there may come a time when hospitalization is the best course of action. You may decide to go to the hospital of your own free will or your symptoms may be so acute that a health care professional or loved one needs to commit you to a hospital for a period of time.

It is not an easy process to go through, both for yourself and your loved ones, but if hospitalization can help, then that is the most important thing. Your wellbeing has to be the major priority, especially if you pose a threat to yourself or others.

The following information will help you to understand the process of hospitalization. The information is important for both people who have mental health conditions and people who have a family member or friend who is suffering from a condition. The sooner individuals seek mental health treatment, the sooner the problem can be treated.

What is hospitalization?

Many mental illnesses can be treated with therapy, medication and support groups, but there are times when your mental illness may require treatment in a hospital. Hospitalization, also called inpatient treatment, typically occurs when a person is at risk of harming himself or herself or another individual. Hospitalization also occurs when your mental health condition is so serious your physical health is deteriorating.

There are two main types of hospitalization. Voluntary hospitalization is when you admit yourself, and involuntary hospitalization is when a loved one or health care professional decides it is in your best interest to have you admitted to a hospital.

When you are hospitalized for your mental health condition, you will receive a full evaluation of your mental and physical health. You will also be screened for substance abuse. During your time in the hospital, you can receive various services and treatments, such as group therapy, individual therapy and medications.

With hospital staff and health care professionals, you will develop a treatment plan. This could include getting family members involved too. The treatment plan of action also includes follow-up steps for when you leave the hospital.

Voluntary Hospitalization

There are various reasons for voluntarily admitting yourself to hospital. Many people with mental health conditions will admit themselves when their condition causes an acute episode triggering a moment of crisis, although things do not have to become that extreme to go to a hospital. Other reasons to admit yourself could be:

  • You want to get a more accurate diagnosis for your condition.
  • You wish to be monitored closely so the right course of treatment can be applied.
  • You want your medications to be adjusted or stabilized.
  • You are feeling too ill to be able to eat, sleep and bathe properly.

Admitting yourself to a hospital can be a scary experience, so you may wish to ask a family member or a friend to accompany you. He or she will be able to give you support and also help with the checking-in procedure and the filling out of paperwork.

If you can, then you should also call ahead to the hospital rather than just showing up. This may not always be possible, depending on the severity of your condition, but calling ahead allows you to know about the hospital’s procedures and rules. You can also ask what items you should take with you and get information about visiting hours.

Hospital staff will get approval for your stay from your insurance company. Your insurance provider will then evaluate your progress periodically to determine if you require more time in the hospital. If your insurance company denies your hospitalization request, you or a doctor can appeal.

You can leave the hospital at any time, as long as the staff does not believe you are a threat to yourself or others. If you are not a danger and you are experiencing difficulties in getting the hospital to release you, then contact the protection and advocacy agency for your state. As well as having the right to sign yourself out if you pose no danger, you also have the rights as an individual with mental concerns, such as to be informed about every detail of the treatments and tests you are receiving. It is important you are aware of the benefits and risks of the medicine you are taking and the other treatments you are receiving. You have the right to refuse treatments and tests if you feel you are at risk or you believe they are unnecessary.

Although you have plenty of rights and you have voluntarily admitted yourself, you still have to follow the hospital’s rules. These can include:

  • Having no access to specific items you could use to harm yourself, such as razors, shoelaces and belts.
  • Having to follow a strict schedule for treatments, activities, meals and bedtime.
  • Having to share a room.
  • Being in a locked ward or room you are unable to leave at will.

Involuntary Hospitalization

The criteria for committing someone to a hospital against his or her will vary from state to state but the main rule stays the same. People can be involuntarily hospitalized if they present a danger to themselves or others. Other reasons for involuntary hospitalization include things like refusing to receive the treatment necessary for the mental illness.

Each state also has procedures to make sure you are not committed without just cause. There are limits on how long you can be held as well. Who is able to begin the process of having you committed to a hospital also varies from state to state and it is dependent on the type of commitment being sought.

Just because a person is admitted against his or her will, it does not mean he or she is forced to undergo treatment, unless it is required to stabilize a medical condition in an emergency situation. However, that does not include medication the patient needs to treat his or her mental health condition. There are also different rules regarding short-term and long-term admissions that can differ from state to state. You can find out what your own state’s laws are by consulting the Treatment Advocacy Center.

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