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What is life like in a mental hospital?

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Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:41 am
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Paracosm says...

Hey guys! I'm writing a story about a guy who is admitted into a mental hospital after someone tries to kill him, but makes it look like suicide. Needless to say, he survives. Seeings as I've never been to a mental hospital, I need to know what it's like in one, specifically:

What types of activities are there?
How do they evaluate you?
Do patients interact with one another much?
What styles of therapy do they use?

Thanks for you time. I might could fake it, but I'd still like to know more about what it's like so I'm more comfortable while I write. Thanks in advance!
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Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:07 pm
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Rosey Unicorn says...

What time period is it? That determines a lot.
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Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:37 pm
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Paracosm says...

Oh yeah! I forgot to mention that. It's modern times, or possibly the 90s. Right now I'm going with nowadays though. Thank you!
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Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:51 pm
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RachaelElg says...

If it's a modern mental hospital and it's up to standards...

Activities focus on self-esteem boosts, but to the outside, they might seem dumb or silly. Arts and crafts, coloring books, fingernail-painting. Nothing hard or complicated, and nothing with a material that could become harmful.

Patients definitely do interact with each other. Not all of the patients in the hospital--they're divided up into wards--but there's group therapy, and patients will spend time together in the lounge sort of room. Whether or not they interact together in the lounge/recreation room is up to the patients.

Patients are also likely to have a roommate, so that's something to consider.

As for how the evaluation is done and the styles of therapy used, I don't know anything for sure. What I do know is from someone I know who spent a few stints in a mental hospital. Another thing to mention would be that they keep anything potentially harmful away. Shoelaces, sweatshirts with strings, belts, etc.

I'd suggest you look up things like the history of mental rehabilitation and psychological therapy and mental hospitals, and while the history part of it might not be of much use, eventually those records would arrive at your target era.
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Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:51 pm
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Paracosm says...

Thank you very much! I would like to visit one at some point in time, for research of course, but I'm not sure how that works.

Thank you! This will be very helpful information!
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Sat Mar 17, 2012 5:17 pm
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Ego says...

Hi Shinobi,

This is all simply in my experience, which seems like it might be similar to that of your protagonist.

72 hours in a mental hospital, minimum security wing, on a 5150 hold.

What types of activities are there?

--Group therapy a few times a day, which occasionally involves some sort of art--poetry, stories, drawings, painting, etc.
--Food! Three meals a day, sometimes brought up by food cart, sometimes the entire wing will take a field trip to the cafeteria (followed by medication time, typically).
--Outside will go outside and get fresh air for an hour or so a day.

How do they evaluate you?

Typically on a one-to-one basis with your Psychiatrist, with notes on your participation in group therapy, outside time, etc. that determines how cooperative you are and how well you're doing. Interviews with your Psychiatrist once a day are common.

Do patients interact with one another much?

It's a group setting, so yes. I'm sure there are isolated patients, but the large majority of them, assuming they aren't dangerous, co-mingle a lot.

What styles of therapy do they use?

Largely group therapy, as there are not enough Doctors employed to offer lengthy one on one sessions. You'll typically get a half hour to an hour with your Psychiatrist per day, depending on how crowded the wing is.

Hope this helps.
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Sun Mar 18, 2012 12:25 am
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InTheTrees says...

I spent 8 days in a mental hospital once. I read through previous comments and found them pretty thorough, but some things I noticed other people didn't mention are this:
*Before you enter the mental hospital, they strip you to check if you're hiding any weapons. They don't check body cavities, but they do check underwear.
*Every night you are woken up every fifteen mintues or so to check that you are still breathing.
*Your personal belongings are searched every day, as well as your arms and legs to check that you haven't been harming yourself.
*If you caught hurting yourself, you are put on full-visual. This is when you cannot use the bathroom, change or shower without someone watching, you must sleep in front of everyone and aren't allowed to cover your head, and a staff member must be within 10 feet of you at all times
*There are these things called "restraints". If someone gets out of hand, the staff pin your hands and feet to the floor and you are put in a strait jacket, which is typically attached to a large stiff board to prevent movement. Then you are thrown in a padded room with 24 hour surveliance.
*When you come out of the strait-jacket, you are put on one-on-one. This is when a staff member must be five feet away from you at all times
*Generally, the food sucks.
*There is generally a lot of screaming. All day, everyday, 24/7. Someone is always having a breakdown.
*Boys are not allowed to touch girls.
*Boys are not allowed to eat with girls.
*Boys are not allowed to speak with girls during group therapy.
*You are also not allowed to touch any member of staff at any time.
*You are not allowed to turn off the lights in your room or bathroom at any time. This means getting used to sleeping with five or six lights shining on.
*Everyone has a room mate, but you are not allowed to enter their side of the room, or talk to them once you are sent to your room to sleep. Your roommate is always the same sex as you are.

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Sat Jul 27, 2013 12:48 am
KrystaG says...

I got caught trying to kill myself and was sent to one. They are very strict. The check you hourly to see if your trying to harm yourself. They treat you like kids, I probably made seven macaroni necklaces while I was there. They watched you when you shaved (that is if they let you at all, some hospitals don't). You sometimes got T.V.time or some kind of reward for good behavior. You only get five minutes a day on the phone on certain days. You always had to keep the lights on and got woke up hourly. If you act up they watch you constantly even showering. It is terrible experiance.

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Sat Jul 27, 2013 2:27 am
niteowl says... experience might be different than others...I'd say socioeconomic status, health insurance or lack thereof, and perceived risk would affect their conditions. Also age, as I was over 18 and therefore in an adult facility, which is probably different from one meant for minors. I was also there for 15 days for a psychotic manic episode (a suicidal person probably wouldn't be there as long if they're not psychotic).

I was in a smaller, minimal security facility for adults. On intake, your belongings are evaluated and things you can't have (e.g. shoelaces, cell phones, money) are stored in a locker and given back when you're released. If you're there a while (might not be the case for your character), your visitors (limit of 2) can also bring you stuff which is also evaluated. If this is involuntary (which it might be for your character), lawyers will probably be involved. I waived my right to a hearing, but your character may not want to...

When they can, you'll have an initial meeting with the psychiatrist, and also a medical evaluation. The med eval will determine if you need a special diet, like low cholesterol or for diabetics. There's some one-on-one meetings with the doctors and therapists, but most of it happens via group. There's talk therapy stuff and more "fun" stuff, like art things or "the Ungame". There's also sessions related to more physical health. In order to be considered for release or get privileges like supervised outside time, you have to attend all of these meetings.

Also, nurses took our blood pressure and pulse every night. Since it was an adult facility, we were also expected to do things like shower (during free hours, and I had to ask for a key) and our own laundry.

Interaction is definitely allowed. We had community meetings every morning and night to set personal goals. There were also rotating community responsibilities, like who took notes for the meetings and who cleaned up the kitchen. In addition to the therapy stuff, we did have more fun stuff like Bingo. Men and women were allowed to talk, but not to touch or be in each other's rooms.

Doors don't lock and you have to keep them at least ajar, but our lights had to be off. At night someone will do rounds every 15 minutes (I was never woken up though). During free hours, we could read, play with puzzles, or watch TV. We also had phones where people could call if we gave them the direct line number. Legally, if someone calls asking for you, the staff can only confirm that you're there, and only if you let them.

If your character smokes, he can't smoke (duh), but they might give him a nicotine patch. They can also give you basic toiletries if you need them and ugly socks.

Sorry that was long, and I realize my experience was somewhat atypical (I had good insurance and my mom had a social worker telling her where NOT to send be). Hope it helps though.
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Sat Jul 27, 2013 2:51 am
KLovelace says...

I saw this thread, and this stuff might have been posted before but I figured I'd put my input in as well.
I was in a children's mental hospital (at age 17) that had girls from twelve to my own age. The boys and the girls where not allowed to interact (they used to be able to, but a nurse told me some drama happened and a girl set a guys house on fire when she got out of the hospital.) >.> Fun times!
The girls are not allowed to touch. We could ask permission to do each other's hair but that was it. Everything was very strict. A nurse brought in a bag of treats for everyone that had one of those little wire/paper tires on it; she got in trouble for giving us a weapon. Everything is bolted down. They monitor your food intake to make sure you're not overfeeding yourself or starving yourself. They wake you up in the middle of the night to check your blood pressure.
Some girls had to sleep in the hallways so the nurses could watch them all night long.
I came in during... halloween, I think? so I missed a lot of the therapy sessions and we mostly just watched movies. Oh god, so many movies x.x
Obviously no shoes... hoodies... drawstring pants... They let me keep my pillow pet after making sure I didnt hide anything inside it.
Oh and the one I went to forced religion down your throat, that might be fun to write! Especially if your character was a different religion or no religion at all. This man would come in and read the Bible to us.
A common misconception however is that these mental hospitals are just for people who are depressed. There will also be fighters- people with anger issues. There were more of them than the rest of us. They're scary.
Their job is to give you medication and get you out of there. I managed only a week by complying with what they wanted. Their solution to everything is a pill. Stomach ache? Pill. Headache? Pill. Tried killing yourself? Three more pills >.>
Hm... As for like the setting, there was a group room, then a hallway with doors, and a few small meeting rooms for parents. No one under 21 was allowed to see you, even little brothers or sisters.
I think that covers everything I know... :o Good luck!
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Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:52 am
StellaThomas says...

I've never been in one but I just wanted to say, remember that your character really has to seem suicidal for the psychiatrist to commit them. They'll listen to what they have to say, watch their body language and eye contact. If the patient thinks someone tried to kill him and seems lucid enough, they'll probably look into it (I know that in certain parts of Ireland, if someone tells you there are terrorists after them you have to check this isn't actually the case before you act). Otherwise they may then put youin a ffacility for paranoia/delusions.
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Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:27 pm
567ajt says...

What is life like in a mental hospital?

Not very nice...
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Thu Nov 28, 2013 4:41 am
Pencil2paper says...

It depends. I've known a few people who have been to residentials and I've heard a few different things.

One of my friends said that it was terrible and that she thought it did more bad than good. There were a few group therapy sessions but not a lot of insight or help was gained.

Another one of my friends said that it really helped her and that the group therapy sessions were very helpful. There were a few activities but nothing major, and they couldn't have anything they could commit suicide with (including paper), which was my friend's only complaint, because she's a writer too.

One of my family members went as well, and she said that 'it was the best vacation she'd ever had. They had tennis courts and great food and everything was free (yay insurance).

I think it really depends on the disorder your character has and why he's in the residential. (Manic-depression/bipolar disorder (1), attempted suicide (2), alcoholism (3), self-harm(also 3), etc.)
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Thu Nov 28, 2013 8:51 am
Dreamy says...

Something I would like to experience. ^^
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Thu Nov 28, 2013 10:11 am
Zolen says...

It's really an experience that is hard to really imagine unless you lived or saw it. They can talk about all the scary things, they can talk about the logic behind it all, but in the end, talk to someone who lived through it, have a long standing conversation with them. Not their writings, just have a talk with them about it.

If it is possible maybe details about one day they might have remembered vividly. If you want to get across the point I say talk to KrystaG or InTheTrees who seem to have experienced a lot of it in the more hard core mental hospitals that cover people who are thought to have a high chance of self harm.

Us giving details here is not going to give you quite the idea as actually talking to someone for a while.
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