Hospitalization for Mental Illnesses

There may come a time when a person with a mental health condition may need to seek hospitalization.

While many people who have a mental illness or disorder will not need to spend time in a hospital, some patients need additional treatment.

There are several reasons why a patient would need to be hospitalized. For example, patients may need to be closely monitored after an adjustment of mental health medication to make sure they are stabilized. Another reason for hospitalization is after a patient has a severe episode or his or her illness or disorder seems to be worsening. Hospitalization may be voluntary by the patient, but it may also be the result of a physician’s recommendation or concern for the patient. Regardless the reason for a patient’s admission to a hospital, he or she needs to know their rights as a patient. Patients must also learn how to find a facility that is right for them and their mental health condition.

How does hospitalization work?

A person with a mental health condition may voluntarily enter treatment in a hospital setting, although some patients may be admitted unwillingly. An involuntary hold, also known as the 5150 hold or 72-hour hold, states that a patient can be held against their will for up to 72 hours in a psychiatric hospital. The patient may not be hospitalized for the full 72 hours, but this is at the discretion of the medical professional. A person can be held against their will and kept on an involuntary hold if they meet one of the following three criteria:

  • The person is a danger to others
  • The person is a danger to themselves
  • The person is severely incapacitated (or disabled) by his or her mental condition

If someone has been held the full 72-hours and that person still shows signs of one of the involuntary hold conditions, the patient may still be subject to an involuntary hold. Known as the 5250 hold, a psychiatrist can file to hold the patient for up to 14 days. During that time, the patient will be treated for intensive psychiatric therapy.

Where can a person with a mental illness be hospitalized?If you or a loved one has made the conscious effort to be hospitalized, it is crucial to explore all of the available treatment options. There are three primary types of hospital treatment settings for those with mental health conditions, including inpatient, outpatient, and residential care. The level of treatment you will receive will correlate with the level of care you will need.

General Medical Hospitals

The first place you might think to look to get treatment for a mental health condition may be your local general hospital. While some medical and surgical hospitals do have on-site psychiatric inpatient and substance abuse units, it is not universal. Therefore, you should look for immediate placement at a separate mental health hospital.

In-Patient Hospitalization

Inpatient psychiatric hospitals may be standalone buildings or part of a psychiatric unit of a general medical or surgical hospital. Psychiatric hospitals or units can be privately owned or publicly owned and operated by the government. Those admitted to an in-patient facility receive 24-hour care since patients stay at inpatient facilities overnight. Care for a psychiatric patient is constant, and licensed psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses provide supervision. During their stay, patients typically participate in group therapy sessions. While a patient typically only remains in a psychiatric inpatient facility for no more than 30 days, those admitted are generally patients with severe mental illnesses or disorders. If after the initial 30 days a patient requires long-term care, he or she may be transferred to a separate facility.

Public Psychiatric Hospitals

Psychiatric hospitals are designed to care for patients with mental health conditions. But, the physicians on-site are trained to address medical conditions as well. Every state has dedicated public psychiatric hospitals that are equipped to handle patients with short-term and long-term care. Public mental hospitals are required to accept patients that have no way to pay for the treatment. They must also admit forensic patients, which are patients who have been determined unfit to be tried for a criminal or civil offense and who are ordered to get help in a facility like a psychiatric hospital. There are also public psychiatric hospitals that administer drug and alcohol detoxification. Some even provide inpatient rehabilitation services for those patients who suffer from substance abuse. Mental health hospitals may also treat patients with eating disorders.

Residential Care

Residential care facilities offer similar treatment as a hospital ward, but these facilities can offer care on a longer basis. While most residential care facilities provide medical care to their patients with mental health conditions, the setting is designed to be less formal. That way, patients are more relaxed and comfortable to receive treatment. Residential care facilities offer can offer specialized mental health programs to help different types of patients. Residential care facilities often admit patients for substance abuse treatment.

Psychiatric Residential Centers

For patients that suffer from chronic psychiatric disorders, they may be best suited for hospitalization in a psychiatric residential center. These centers are designed to treat patients with severe psychiatric disorders like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They also admit patients who have multiple mental health diagnoses, like a mental illness or disorder and issues with substance abuse. Typically, these disorders prevent patients from being able to function and live a healthy life on their own.

Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Facilities

Substance abuse can be treated in psychiatric settings like a psychiatric hospital or residential centers. However, some facilities specialize in substance abuse treatment, and patients may be admitted to an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility. These in-patient facilities are designed to not only treat substance abuse but also provide detoxification services. The typical stay at an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility is 30 days, but this can vary based on an individual’s needs.

Partial Hospitalization

Since we have discussed short-term and long-term inpatient facilities, let’s take a look at “day programs” that treat mental health conditions. Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) provide treatment and services to patients with mental health conditions, but these services are not available on an overnight basis. Usually, a patient enters a partial hospitalization program after they have been in an in-patient facility but before they are discharged.

PHPs are outpatient programs which can act as part of a hospital or as its own freestanding facility. These programs offer treatment throughout the week and often for six hours or more, although it may depend on the facility. The treatment programs offered in PHPs while less intensive than those in inpatient facilities focus primarily on mental health conditions or substance abuse. Patients often participate in educational sessions, as well as group therapy and individual counseling sessions.

Outpatient Facilities

Outpatient facilities offer treatment in office settings. Patients do not stay overnight and only visit the facility for treatment, and outpatient facilities are often located in community based mental health centers. However, many medical and surgical hospitals have outpatient clinics for patients to visit. Furthermore, patients with mental health conditions can also seek treatment in private offices. These physicians practice in either individual or group private practices.

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