A Trip to the Psych Ward

So what’s it like on the psych ward? Going in for your first time can be a scary experience. Here’s a little bit about done of my experiences, in hopes that it can calm the nerves or help you understand better. Remember, there’s NO SHAME in going to get help. 

Something happens, whether it be a life event or the chemicals in your brain take control, and the need arises for you to go into the hospital. A loved one can volunteer to drive you into the ER. Maybe you recognize the need to go and drive yourself in. Perhaps things are a little worse and the police come get you, or an ambulance even. Me? I’ve done them all. I’ve been handcuffed in the back of a cop car, strapped on a stretcher in an ambulance, been driven in by a coworker and I’ve also taken myself in. No matter how you get there, be prepared for a long wait. My record for the longest time spent in the ER (not including times I’ve gone in for physical issues) is 22 1/2 hours before being taken to the psychiatric unit. People all over have reported anywhere up to 120 hours of wait time. Once you’re in the ER, they typically need to make sure that there’s nothing medically going on, so they take a urine sample and some blood. If you overdosed or attempted suicide, they take appropriate measures to make sure you’re medically cleared before admitting you to the Psych Ward. Once you’re medically cleared, you get a room on the psych ward (some units have two people to a room, others have a single bed in each room). Security goes through literally ALL of your belongings you have with you, taking anything that you could remotely hurt yourself or others with and keep it locked away until you are discharged. Life then begins on the psych ward.

The schedule varies based on the different units. Usually you get woken up in the morning by a nurse needing to take your blood pressure. After that, there’s usually a morning group session. Groups can include (but are not limited to): Stress and Anxiety Group, Occupational Therapy (aka OT), a relaxation/ mindfulness themed group, a group to talk to other patients and try and help everyone out (not as scary or overwhelming as it sounds), etc. When you’re not in groups you have a number of options for what to do. There’s usually a day room with a television and books and coloring and all sorts of things to pass the time. You can stay in your room, but the staff usually encourages you to get out of your room. You order your meals and all the trays for those on the unit arrive at the same time, three times a day. The Nurses check in with you on a daily basis and talk to you about how your day has been and how you’re mood is. They monitor your progress, and when you’re safe enough you get discharged, ready to go home!  You create a safety plan (see mine here!) before you go home, your social worker follows up with you on any appointments you have coming up with mental health professionals, and your psychiatrist gives you your new prescriptions to fill. You might not think it, but the first few days home can be the roughest of the days. Adjusting back your everyday life and stresses can be a challenge. My next blog post will continue the story about what to expect when you get home. See you next time!

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