If you suffer from chronic mental illness you are no stranger to the hospital. There are many people who have been hospitalized so many times they cannot remember each admission or maybe so traumatized they would rather not remember the experience altogether. There are many perspectives, feelings, stigmas, and thoughts people with and without diagnoses have on the in-patient psychiatric hospitalization. Some of them include: 1) Do I need to go in? 2) When is it the right time? 3) How long do I need to be here? 3) How will people at work and my friends think about knowing I’m here? And so on…
None of these are fun topics to think about to discuss with your therapist or supports. But nevertheless, they are some of the MOST important questions to start an ongoing dialogue about when you live with chronic mental illness. Knowing when a hospitalization is necessary is not the first step in giving up the fight against mental illness it is the first step you can take towards your recovery. This is the reason why hospitalization should not be feared by people diagnosed with mental illness. In fact, hospitalization and the work put in by patients towards their recovery upon admission until there ultimate discharge should be celebrated by everyone in the recovery process including supports, family, and friends.
Preparing for hospitalization is something to be done once you are first diagnosed. Waiting and putting of planning a possible admission is the worst thing you can do if you suffer from chronic mental illness because you are not only ruling out the safest possible space when you are at imminent risk of harming yourself but also you are limiting your choices for how to proceed with your recovery at the most difficult time in the course of your treatment. There is no reason to put yourself at further risk of harm when you are so far from baseline even your therapist and closet supports are worried about you and your safety in your living environment.
This means getting to know your local hospitals. This includes phone numbers to emergency rooms, best transportation routes to get there when you aren’t feeling safe, and providing this contact information and your plan to go in to friends and family. Getting adjusted and feeling safe in the hospital will make each next hospitalization that much easier and organic to everyone involved in your recovery and reduce the stigma associated with your “first admission” as the process becomes normalized as just another step you’ve taken towards your recovery. It is also a giant step taken to reducing your risk at hospitalization in a state facility because you’re so far from your baseline you are unmanageable and unsafe at a local hospital and require the resources of state-level long term care.