Fresh Thought Friday

Fresh Thought Friday: What To Expect In The Ward

Dear Katie:

I’m having trouble with obtaining medication and my reality is way off. If I admit myself into the hospital, what would the stay be like? What can I expect and how long might I be there for? And how would I pay for it?

-Terrified & Troubled


Dear Terrified,

Voluntarily admitting yourself into the hospital is a brave choice you make knowing that you need that kind of care and medical support for your mental well-being. If they determine that you are a danger or harm to yourself or others, they will admit you. They may have you fill out forms. Be prepared to wait in their lobby and again in their conference rooms to have forms explained and then you and someone close to you (family member or legal guardian) signing them. That is was my experience when I was admitted five years ago.

As far as entering the psych unit, the hospital will be stark and sterile. Unfortunately, this is the case with most units, when those who are mentally ill are put behind locked doors. In the case that you are admitted, expect there to be a schedule of activities to follow. The schedule may or may not change week to week, but you can usually expect it to be an hourly schedule of activities, from breakfast to games, group therapy to TV time.

There may be a lot of patients with you in this setting, depending on the size of the building and its capacity. Be prepared for people making a scene, acting out, or even yourself going a little nuts in captivity – after all, you’re in there for an undetermined amount of time. Which leads me to how long you’re likely to stay.

Depending on how often you see the doctor and the progress you are making with the medication and your behaviors in reaction to said medication, your stay may last a few days to a few weeks. Be prepared for a longer stay the more you overreact, act out, or just adversely react to the medications and stimulations in the hospital setting. It may be hard not knowing how long the stay will be, but keep focused on the progress you’re making.

While you’re there, I recommend keeping a journal to channel your energy and thoughts onto a page each day. This can be a relief and a therapeutic approach to your behaviors and thoughts.

As far as how you’d afford to pay for the stay, this all depends. Because there are various scenarios and each patient is different, I would recommend visiting Mental Health America’s site for healthcare payment information.  But if you need help, the earlier you seek care, usually the quicker (and cheaper) the overall recovery process is; so please don’t let healthcare costs keep you from seeking help.   

I wish you the best on your journey into and through the hospital. May you be patient with the process, and may you find a place to get better. Be brave and don’t give up!




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