7 Things I learned at the psych ward


Does the title of this blog scare you?  Does it make you laugh?  Does it make you cry?  Make you shudder?  It might do one or all of those things.  Most people NEVER want to admit they have been to a psychiatric hospital.  I can’t say I would have ever dreamed I would be talking about this out loud.  But the path between me and a psych ward is pretty long ago and I feel like there is something to be learned from every experience.  And as a mental health advocate I believe we should never be ashamed from getting the help we need.  In this spirit I share…

Here are seven things I learned at the psych ward:

#1)  It is NO fun to be LOCKED up

My first trip for inpatient care was 17 years ago and I was terrified when the door locked behind me.  I understand the door is locked for patients and public safety, but it does not discount my feelings of fear.  It reminded me of all the bad things I had ever heard about mental institutions.  Yes, even though I might not have been in my best frame of mind I still had thoughts and feelings.  There are places that do not lock the door, but those are few and far between.  No sugar coating.  Being locked away was a degrading feeling.

#2)  Most people there are “normal”

What is normal anyway?  Well, that’s your average everyday person who has goals, dreams and a life outside of the hospital door.  People from all walks of life visit the psych ward every single day.  They are just normal people – husbands, wives, daughters, sons – they just happen to be struggling with an illness.

#3)  The staff is a reflection of society (stigma exists)

There are good people, bad people and somewhere in between who work in the psych ward.  I have been treated extremely well by many people, but I have also been discounted, discouraged and disenchanted.  Some staff are very knowledgeable and willing to teach about a specific illness and others can’t wait until their shift ends.  Just a reflection of society.

#4)  You don’t recover in the hospital

Think about being hospitalized for any physical illness.  A person who has had open heart surgery is not going to get well over night in the hospital.  We are a quick fix culture, especially when it comes to mental illness.  But it takes time and effort to fully recover.

#5)  Some people are more sick than others

Mental illness is on a continuum.  Every disease has common signs and symptoms but will manifest differently in each person.  Some people will never get well and probably need to be in a hospital for continuous care.  But most people can get better.

#6)  Some places are better than others

I have been in a hospital that had a swimming pool and basketball court, but that’s the exception.  I have also been to a place that did not have enough chairs for everyone to sit. The most important thing is that a person gets the right kind of care that they need and clearly some places do provide it and others do not.

#7)  They don’t want to keep you there

Contrary to popular belief psych wards do not want to keep people there.  One of the biggest issues we have in America is the poor mental health treatment that is available.  It is often poor because people who need treatment can’t get treatment and if people get treatment they don’t keep people long enough – the average inpatient stay in the United States is 7.2 days.  For some illnesses that is not long enough.

15 thoughts on “7 Things I learned at the psych ward

  1. You have some very valid points, which I agree with 100%. As a spouse of someone who has made multiple trips to mental health facilities, there are all observations that I have seen myself or discussed with my wife.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve have seen bad and I’ve seen heaven. UTSW Psychiatric Hospital is where I go when ECT is needed to dig me out from under the boulder. It’s a truly welcome sight. I’ve learned all of the above and once I saw how a good/great caring facility takes care to get you on your feet so you and your support team can help while you and doctor work on getting me stable. I almost went there Wednesday night, a medical hospital can’t give me what I needed fast enough. I was near the bottom of the meanest beast, myself, going thru an unintentional need to withdraw. When my husband heard me wailing out of control, banging myself around the bathroom, battered and helpless except to let the beast keep kicking me. He said were going, we didn’t but he thought medical hospital and I knew it was to see my caregivers at UTSW Dallas. Today is Day One, I’m home by myself and although slow I’ve made it thru half a day. I would never hesitate to get in car to go straight there, I’ve been there 20 times.


      1. I’m blessed to say one more time I called it at the right time on when to start taking others meds I am addicted to which had not been taken. That is possible from my husband picking up after several times saying “I haven’t taken anything else, period, not even a vitamin.” I had to pick up pill caddy and show how many pills were in there that I should have taken. In 16 years this is his first experience with 100% withdraw which is very different than the Black Dog and going off the rails. Even after 16 years he has a lot to learn, I hope he never has to. The acceptance you can’t live alone with out control of your meds above all else is one scary damn fact. It pushed me back a few.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I learned all of these things in the psych ward too, plus they really aren’t there to get you well, but rather just out of suicidal mode so they can then discharge you to outpatient, and that they really do take all your shoelaces, drawstrings, pens and other “weapons.”


  4. You nailed it, Amy. I’ve been to the psych hospital 4 times at 3 different facilities. The one I went to twice was by far the best and is where they finally got my meds combo right. It’s been a few years since my last visit. Everything you said about psych hospitals is true. The last thing I want is to go back but if I get so low that I might be a danger to myself, I’ll get the help I need. For now, things are good and my meds and coping skills are working well but I am aware that meds can stop working. I pray that doesn’t happen.


  5. “You don’t recover in the hospital”… SO true, and so misunderstood. My stay was a much-needed course-correction, but I sure didn’t come out “fixed”… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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