How to cope with being in a teen psychiatric ward

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast.

Aron Janssen, MD is board certified in child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry and is the vice chair of child and adolescent psychiatry Northwestern University.

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If your child is having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Psychiatric hospitals provide the highest level of treatment available to teens and are intended for the short-term stabilization of serious mental health issues. A hospital setting provides a locked environment with constant clinical supervision to ensure their safety.

When Is Hospitalization Needed?

Similar to a hospital for physical problems, a psychiatric hospital is set up to deal with mood or behavioral changes that come on suddenly and require intense structure and intervention to keep the teen safe.

Situations Requiring Hospitalization

  • Suicide attempt or self-harm
  • Threatening to hurt someone else
  • Inability to function

Ultimately, teens who are hospitalized are those who are at risk of hurting themselves or others, or who are unable to function.  

Teens require different treatment from adults. So it's important for teens to be placed on an adolescent unit where the ​staff is trained in dealing with younger patients.

Treatment Methods

The two most important things to know about psychiatric hospitals are:

  • The treatment is fast-paced and intense.
  • The length of stay will be very short, usually for several days.

Hospitals for mental health issues are intended to thoroughly evaluate the crisis, act quickly to stabilize the teen, and develop a plan for continued care. A comprehensive evaluation begins at the time of admission and is completed by interviewing the teen, family members, and mental health or school professionals who have worked with the teen and can provide relevant information.

This assessment considers the prior history of problems in mood or behavior, use of drugs or alcohol, previous treatment, physical illness or symptoms, and family history of mental illness.

Hospitals use a treatment team approach with an extensive staff of professionally trained personnel. Team members may include psychiatrists, psychologists, substance abuse counselors, therapists, social workers, nurses, activity therapists, teachers, and more.

Professionals from each discipline evaluate the teen and make recommendations for treatment both in the hospital and after discharge. While in the hospital, teens participate in numerous daily structured activities that may include:

  • Academic programs to help keep up with school focused on immediate concerns and next steps with other hospitalized teens
  • Individual therapy
  • Multi-family groups – many hospitals suggest families continue in these groups as part of aftercare
  • Occupational, recreational and art therapies

Some may receive psychological testing, although the vast majority may not.

Discharge Planning

Discharge planning refers to specific plans made for the aftercare or follow-up treatment the teen will participate in upon leaving the hospital. Depending on how well the teen responds to treatment in the hospital, follow-up programs will be recommended.

Some teens may require residential treatment, while others may benefit from day treatment.

If medication and efforts at stabilization create significant changes then a lower level of care such as an alternative school or intensive outpatient therapy may be appropriate. Once the reasons for the crisis are identified and a teen is considered stable by the treating psychiatrist and hospital staff, a case manager will work on the discharge plan.

A case manager works with parents on setting up aftercare services. Referrals to a therapist, psychiatrist, or other service provider will be made. Usually, a case manager will set up follow-up appointments to ensure that the teen remains healthy once she's discharged home.

Sometimes, parents feel like a teen is being rushed out of the hospital. They fear their teen hasn't recovered enough or they worry that safety issues aren't completely resolved.

It's important to make sure you have a clear understanding of your teen's discharge instructions; follow-up with ongoing service providers to keep your teen mentally healthy.

Unfortunately, short stays are the reality of psychiatric hospitals. They are expensive to operate and are intended to assess the teen, stabilize the crisis, and provide expertise in helping transition the teen into a less intensive program.

It’s not an easy experience to have to be hospitalized, whether it’s for a physical or a mental illness. It can be frightening for the person being hospitalized as well as his or her family members.

And there are often symptoms of traumatic stress that come with knowing that you will be staying at a hospital for a few days or a few weeks. Hospitals can trigger feelings such as uncertainty about what might happen, fear of having to go through a painful experience, fear about what others might think of them, fear of dying, and fear of being permanently labeled. These feelings can then bring on symptoms of anxiety and nervousness, including:

  • Being easily upset
  • Feeling anxious or nervous or stressed
  • Feeling confused
  • Feeling numb or empty inside

Typically, when teens and children are hospitalized for mental health concerns, their lives or the lives of others are in danger as a direct result of the psychological illness. In California, a police officer or a qualified mental health professional will deem a teen to be a danger to self (suicidal) or others (homicidal). A child or teen may likely be psychologically unstable and medical attention is needed to provide stabilization.

Hospitalization is a form of psychiatric treatment and is the most intense and the highest level of treatment there is for children, adults, and adolescents. A psychiatric hospital provides 24-hour care that is designed to meet severe changes in mood and behavior, particularly for adolescents with acute mental illnesses. Often, hospitals provide a locked environment with clinical supervision in order to provide the highest levels of safety.

It’s common for psychiatric hospitals to have two wings, one for females and one for males. Each patient has one roommate and there are several rules to ensure safety. For instance, teens cannot close the door all the way, cannot wear shoelaces, and teens with eating disorders are closely monitored while and after eating times. There are frequently specific times when all patients not under close watch are administered their medication. And in order to promote good behavior, teens are typically on a point system, which allows them more privileges as points increase. However, when a patient has either a behavioral or psychiatric outburst, he or she is separated from the group. If that teen doesn’t calm down, a sedative is provided, and if it’s refused, then a teen is held down and the sedative is injected instead.

Just reading this might ignite some tension and fear. However, here are some ways that you, your spouse, and the rest of your family can support your teenager:

Include your teen in medical discussions with the psychiatrist whenever possible. It’s important that your teen ask the questions that he or she needs to. Encourage your teen to participate in the discussion surrounding medication, symptoms, diagnoses, and treatment. This is not only important now, but it will be important in the future if the illness is a long-term experience. Your teen will need to know how to have these conversations with doctors in the future.

Talk about your feelings together. When you and your teen have the opportunity to do so, sit down with one another and talk honestly and openly about your fears, concerns, doubts, and frustrations. When your teen can feel the support of his or her family can make the burden of the experience a little lighter.

Help your teen stay connected with friends. This means that now is a great time that your teen could use the support of old friends. And it’s also a great time to make new friends as well. The more support your teen has, the better he or she might feel.

Find ways of respecting your teen’s privacy. Your teen is going to feel conscious about the way he or she looks. It’s comes with being an adolescent. Reassure your teen while being honest, and give him or her time for self-care.

These are only a few ways to support your adolescent if he or she needs to be hospitalized. Although it’s not an easy experience, you and the rest of your family can provide assistance through love, compassion, and presence.

There are so many stories and websites telling you how to cope when you’re actually admitted to a psychiatric ward or hospital. But there seems to be a big gap in support for when you leave. For some people, adjusting to life outside the ward can be just as, if not more, difficult than adjusting to life inside the ward!

Waking up is strange. You open your eyes and look around, adjusting to the darkness.

Your room is dark. There is no safety light in the middle of the ceiling, no shafts of light coming through the screen in your door.

It’s quiet. No knocking on your door to wake you up at 7:15 a.m. every day, no staff walking down the corridor, no alarms or shouting or noise. You can choose when you want to get up, when to eat, when to have a shower.

You’d think that would be fun, right?

Finally, the freedom to do what you want, when you want. But it’s harder than it sounds. For five months now, you have been told exactly what to do and when to do it. Your life has been dictated by timetables and care plans and rotas. Filled with individual therapy and group therapy and endless “distractions” of arts and crafts and board games. At the time, you probably complained about it. In fact, you definitely complained about it.

But now, left to your own devices. it’s harder than you think to fill the time. Your time is yours, which for some people would be great. But when you’re living with a mental illness, filling your time is hard. Maybe you have no motivation and can only bring yourself to sit and watch TV, to stare at the walls and wait for the clock to tick by. Or maybe you’re so restless you think you have to fill the time and pace around and rush and be on the move constantly.

Maybe you’re happy to be out, but don’t know how to cope with this new found independence.

Maybe you miss it.

That might sound strange, but it’s a lot more common than you would think. For months on end, there has been somebody by your side all day and all night. Whether that is literally by your side during 1-1 observations or sitting in the next room, there has been somebody there to talk to, a hand to hold at 2 a.m. when the world just feels unbearable. That’s how I felt.

However you feel, that’s OK. Your feelings are always OK. Never feel as though you’re “wrong” or “stupid” for feeling what you feel.

But it does get better.

That sounds like a cliché but it does. Day by day, hour by hour, you get stronger and you learn to adjust. Exactly the same way as you became used to being there, you will become used to being at home.

Don’t rush. Take it slow. Push yourself, but not too far.

Be gentle. It will come. But for now, just breathe. And remember that you can get through anything. Just like you have overcome all the obstacles before you, you will overcome this as well.

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How to cope with being in a teen psychiatric ward

Choosing the Best Activity for Your Mental Health Group

When choosing the best activity for your population of clients, take into account where the patients are currently. Build the clients to where you want them to be by choosing activities in the best order. For example, discussion groups work best once clients are comfortable talking with each other and are functioning well as a group. Games can help break the ice if you need help getting them to that point.

If your population is unable to focus for long periods of time, using an activity that demands less attention is best. Or, using a highly engaging format will give the clients the extra focus you need to teach them. Choose the mental health group topic and then choose the best activity for your group.

Activities for Kids

Games, crafts, and role-playing are a few of the best activities for kids. Within just these three types of activities, you can do many different variations. These activities can also be useful with adults in some circumstances.

Games:

  1. Board Games: Order one or make up a board game. There are many different ways to modify board games to be therapeutic. The easiest way is by creating your own cards with questions to replace the cards that come with the game.
  2. Cooperation Games: Cooperation activities include problem solving and team building tasks. Gym activities allow cooperation activities to be conducted on a large scale.
  3. Trivia Games: Trivia games are great for learning information or memorizing. Use a trivia game if you need kids to learn something well at a shallow level.
  4. Pictionary or Charades Games: Getting kids to draw or act out things includes their motor movement into the learning process.

Arts and Crafts:

  1. Create a Book or Brochure: Split the kids into small groups to work on a book about any topic. Provide them with reference materials in needed, but set clear guidelines for the quality of work.
  2. Coloring: For very young children, coloring is a great way to get them focused on therapy topics. Have pictures of good behaviors and bad behaviors, and then ask them to color all the pictures of good behavior.
  3. Collage: A collage can be created individually or in groups. The variety of topics you can use is wide. Family therapy group collages can help clients and family members identify strengths and commonalities.
  4. Origami: Young kids love folding paper. While you are folding with clients, it's a great time to talk about what to do when mistakes are made or how to deal with frustration. Origami takes patience, having a vision and following directions.

Role Playing:

  1. Anger Coping Skills Role-Play: Before doing the role-play, have the kids identify a real anger trigger that can be part of the role play. Then ask them to identify warning signs for their anger. Finally, ask them to put it all together with the coping skills that they want to practice. So, they will role play in this order. Anger Trigger –>Anger Warning Signs –>Anger Coping Skill.
  2. Role Play Communication: This one works like the coping skill role-play, only the clients will practice using communication with others to handle the problem. Teach the kids to use humor or assertiveness to communicate calmly. This is a great way to get kids to practice using "I Statements."

Health and Wellness Activities

  1. Nutrition Activities: Clients often struggle with appetite changes. This is sometimes due to a disorder and other times due to medication side effects. Create a calorie guessing game where the clients try to match a meal with the correct amount of calories based on pictures of different foods.
  2. Exercise Activities: Exercise activities should be simple and fun if possible. You can use videos on YouTube to help you lead exercises or play games in the gym. Invest in a toss game for patients, which can be used inside if needed. Physical activities can be used in conjunction with learning other topics.
  3. Self-Care: Self-care activities teach people how to spend time improving themselves. Paint fingernails, cut hair, clip coupons, or go for a walk. Learning something new is self-care. Any of these types of activities gives clients the message to prioritize their own personal improvement.

Self-Control Activities

  1. Breaking Bad Habits: Once a bad habit has been identified, filling time to replace the time spent on that habit supports a change. Have clients create a schedule of their time, replacing bad habits with more healthy activities.
  2. Anger Management Activities: Anger management activities are great for teaching coping skills and allowing your clients to practice the skills. There are many activities that work well for anger management. The best activities involve practicing anger control in the face of a trigger. Getting deeper, you can do forgiveness letter writing. Or you can get clients to create a journal that they will carry around and write in when they get angry.
  3. Paying Attention and Following Directions: Games like Simon Says teach kids how to listen and pay attention in order to follow directions. Make sure to follow up with a discussion about ways to listen, pay attention, and follow directions better. Also, include questions about what kinds of bad things can happen if you don't listen well.

Music Therapy Activities

Music and emotions are closely related. Music activities are a great way to engage people who love music, which is just about everyone. This is a list of some activities that involve music.

I’ve never talked about my suicide attempt. It brings back shameful memories for me. I was 13 and my method should have killed me. Recently, I was in the emergency room being evaluated for a psych ward intake because I was suicidal, and I finally had to admit the event. I always pushed it off until the doctor asked what did, and when I told him he gave me a wide-eyed expression and said: “Honey, you should have on all accounts died that day; let’s finally get you the help you need.”

I was home alone, and no one knew about the attempt. There was no one there to drive me to the hospital and it made me terribly sick. I was afraid of calling 911 and them telling my parents. I was only 13, barely a teenager. I was in my first depressive episode, the first of many more to come. To add fuel to the fire, I was struggling with being bullied and felt isolated at school. There is something about a bully that can make you feel an inch tall and worthless. After the attempt, I felt a deep sense of shame toward the event.

I rarely hear anyone talk about the shame and isolation you feel when you survive a suicide attempt. Being 13, I didn’t know how to process the shame and I withdrew even more into myself afterward. I wasn’t prepared to handle those feelings. I felt a lot of guilt though I was upset to still be alive. It wasn’t until years later that I was thankful to survive.

The attempt taught me a few things:

1. Shame is a natural reaction toward a traumatic event like an uncompleted suicide attempt.

The deep sense of shame I felt was overwhelming. I still, to this day, feel ill-equipped to handle the feelings associated with it. The shame ran deep and all I wanted to do afterward was hide from the world.

2. Reach out to someone.

I was too afraid to reach out to anyone. I felt like no one could understand what I was going through. I was afraid of what my parents would think, and I had no friends to tell. If I had only known about a crisis hotline, the whole event may have never happened.

3. You can feel both relieved and upset to be alive.

I felt such a rush of mixed emotions. At first, I was relieved I survived. Then, I felt upset to be alive. Then, back to relieved and I played this game of back and forth for months afterward. I was still horribly depressed and because I never got the help I needed, I was still unmedicated afterward.

4. Parents: be involved in your child’s life.

I struggled because I had two parents who were more worried about their businesses than what was going on in their child’s life. I constantly felt pushed aside and my emotions were never validated. My parents refused to acknowledge negative emotions, and would just send me to my room. If they had been involved, they would have more likely seen the signs that I was spiraling down. Parents, you can save your child’s life by working toward understanding what they are going through and with care and compassion. helping them process the big emotions they are learning to deal with. It is also OK to talk about suicidal thoughts with them . Keeping the lines of communication open is vital.

5. Finally, I learned I had a purpose.

It has taken years to begin to process the whole event, the feelings of being overwhelmed and wanting to end it all. It also took time for me to see that I had been dealing with what I didn’t know were passive suicidal thoughts most of my childhood. Now that I started processing the event, I have begun to be grateful that I didn’t die by suicide. I was thankful I lived, and I found a hope that I have a purpose in life. I may not know what that purpose is, but I have hope that I have one. I finally want to take the journey to find that purpose.

Finding your purpose doesn’t happen overnight, just like suicidal thoughts don’t just disappear after you attempt suicide. Just like it’s a process of healing. Finding purpose in life takes time. If there is one thing you take away from this story, it is that it is worth it to stay and find your purpose. Every single one of us has one.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

You’ve seen movies like Girl, Interrupted, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Shutter Island, and 12 Monkey. So, you’ve probably formed some ideas about what psych wards are like. And, these ideas are probably not-so-accurate. After attempting suicide, I landed in the psych ward and learned a few things. Here are 5 things no one tells you about the psych ward.

#1. It’s somewhat “normal” for addicts to have gone to the psych ward

Hollywood has probably done the public a disservice as far as how psych wards are depicted in movies. Don’t get me wrong, these places generally are not somewhere you want to be, although, the people who end up here do generally realize that they need the help. There are seriously ill people in the psych ward as well as people “like us.”

When I was in the mental ward of my town’s hospital, I was *lucky* enough to have a roommate who was like me – a normal type of crazy, not, soil-yourself-and-the-common-area-furniture type of crazy. She was a young lawyer who had checked herself into the psych ward because she thought she was going crazy (turns out, she’s alcoholic). It’s quite common for alcoholics and addicts to have spent time in the psych ward before they get clean and sober. That’s why it’s said: “We are people in the grip of a continuing and progressive illness whose ends are always the same: jails, institutions, and death” – where “institutions” includes psych wards and mental hospitals.

#2. You might be there for more than three days

Regardless of whether you sign yourself in voluntarily or you are ordered to go to the psych ward, most hospitals can hold you for 72 hours for psych-related reasons without your permission. Even if you’re truly OK, the hospital needs to ensure that you aren’t going to leave and immediately have some kind of “episode.”

After three days in a psych ward, you can leave … if the doctors say you can leave. That is, it’s at the doctors’ discretion after evaluating you, whether you can leave.

#3. It’s not long-term

Despite the movie depictions, and also because healthcare and especially mental healthcare has changed so much, psych wards are not the long-term institutions they used to be. The mental hospitals of the cinema are filled with people who are clearly just “eccentric” – being held against their will, either planning their escape or manipulating the system as best they can in order to get “released.” All this is good news because, upon entering, all of your personal belongings are confiscated.

#4. It’s not a detox

As mentioned in #1, we alcoholics and addicts often end up in a psych ward at some point in our active addiction. Sometimes, it is our only recourse for getting some relief and help, especially when it comes to dealing with withdrawal symptoms. Although the psych ward is not the same thing as a detox, oftentimes a hospital’s chemical dependency ward is part of the same program as the mental ward.

#5. You’re diagnosis might change

There are two main things to consider here. One is that navigating the brain – how it works and how it “malfunctions” – is not an exact science.One of the most frustrating things about a serious mental illness is that you (and the doctor) almost can’t know exactly what’s going on. Your brain changes as you age, so it’s possible for your disorders to evolve. Since the doctors can’t be 100% sure what’s wrong, they can’t be sure that the treatment is going to work.

The second thing to keep in mind is this: if you are diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder in the midst of your active addiction or even within 6 months of last drug use, your diagnosis might be wrong.

This is because drugs affect the brain in such a profound way that we can start displaying behaviors and thought patterns that mimic a mental illness. It isn’t until we get clean and sober and stay sober for a period of time that we can be sure whether a diagnosis is accurate. Many times, people in recovery who, at one time were diagnosed with a mood disorder, realize that it simply isn’t the case.

While I was in the psych ward, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And no doubt, I was certainly acting like someone with the disorder. I was obviously depressed and, now, as the cocktail of drugs I had taken with the purpose of overdosing was clearing my system, I was becoming more and more manic; I was displaying racing thoughts and speech and experiencing a racing heartbeat. So, for years, I thought I had bipolar disorder when it was really chronic depression. It wasn’t until I went to treatment and got some clean time under my belt that I realized this.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

I was in the psychiatric ward of a local hospital on suicide watch for 16 days. I attempted suicide twice within 12 hours. 16 days of eating plastic food, sleeping in a slightly too uncomfortable bed, having meeting after meeting with a psychiatrist, night after night of laying in bed wondering what was to become of me. 16 days of being a psychiatric patient who could barely function some moments.

How to cope with being in a teen psychiatric ward

It seemed like I was in there forever. The stifling off-white walls and blue hospital gowns submerged in bottles of pills to sedate the pain makes you feel like you’ll never leave once you’ve been admitted. The screams were the worst; patients yelling back and forth at each other and the nurses doing their best to help. An enclosed nightmare is what I would define it as.

How to cope with being in a teen psychiatric ward

Each day was the same routine: Wake up, have breakfast at 7:30 a.m., take meds at 8:00 a.m., wander around aimlessly until 9:00 a.m., go to groups until 12:00 p.m., have lunch at 12:00 p.m., go to groups until 2:00 p.m., wander around aimlessly until 5 p.m., have dinner at 5:00 p.m., wander around aimlessly until 8:00 p.m., have a snack at 8:00 p.m., wander around aimlessly until 11:00 p.m., go to bed at 11:00 p.m. Repeat the routine again the next day. Over and over and over again. It was sickening.

How to cope with being in a teen psychiatric ward

The deafening echoes of the voices of the other patients jostling around the back of my mind. “Bunch of assholes they are,” “I’m afraid I’m losing God,” “I can’t hear a word you just said,” “I just called the FBI and they will be at the door and they will find the bombs that are all around the building … tomorrow no hospital,” “My husband was murdered, my brother was murdered, my whole family was murdered,” “Nobody ever said that to me before,” “So you’re the one in school,” “What are you studying?”

How to cope with being in a teen psychiatric ward

The putrid smells that wreaked the hallways still burn my nostrils. The cries, the pacing of feet back and forth, doors opening and closing, the locked doors, the fights, the squeak of the food trolley arriving, the vicious mood swings, no motivation, the hopeless looks, the doctors and nurses; on and on and on. Like a vicious cycle of horror that never ends.

How to cope with being in a teen psychiatric ward

I was one of the lucky ones. I brought a few books to read and my laptop to write and do some schoolwork whenever I felt up to it. It wasn’t often but I managed to get some things done. Other patients took to drawing or doing puzzles or even writing. We got 20 minute breaks throughout the day if we had the green privileges bracelet. I had one.

How to cope with being in a teen psychiatric ward

I made some amazing friends there. Funny I know, to think you could make friends in the psych ward. But I did. These people were not “crazy” or different to me. They are real people struggling with real illnesses, just like I am. I know that whenever I feel alone and need someone, they will be there. They are my support group just as much as my family and my doctors are.

How to cope with being in a teen psychiatric ward

I cannot thank those who went through this rough time with me enough. Day after day they were there, loving me and giving me the support I needed. Even when I was acting out or screaming or crying or feeling hopeless, they were there. They walked through fire for me and I am forever grateful. They were a true blessing for me.

How to cope with being in a teen psychiatric ward

This morning at 11:30 a.m., I was discharged from the hospital’s psych ward. I walked the long corridor to the doors leading to freedom and beyond for the very last time. No more blue hospital gowns or plastic food; no more stifling off-white walls, uncomfortable beds and screaming patients. No more scheduled vitals check and blood work. No more of any of it.

How to cope with being in a teen psychiatric ward

Now as an outpatient, I am able to return to society and go school. I am able to go for coffee with people I enjoy spending time with. I am able to live with my mental illness in a manageable way. I am in no way “fixed” or 110 percent better. I never will be. But I will do the best I can to live a “normal” life without letting my illness stop me.

Recovery is complex, and in no way a “quick fix.” It is grueling and long and can feel useless at moments. I will admit I have felt that way at times during my time in the hospital. I used to think the doctors would make me better and I didn’t have to do anything. Wrong. I had to work my butt off to get to the place I am in right now. It was very difficult for me. Seeing what other patients were dealing with made me feel sorrowful, which made it extra difficult for me to learn how to cope with my illness. Coming from me, recovery is hard!

I want to express to you that I am who I am and I will never be able to get rid of my illness or become “fully cured.” Mental illness is something I will live with for the rest of my life. I have accepted that fact. But even though my illness is lifelong, it should not be life-limiting. I should be able to do all the things I want to do, like travel, study, work, etc. I should not have to succumb to the grasping claws of my illness. I am not my illness.

Writing this has been freeing for me. I feel more confident in my words and I will hopefully feel the same in my actions going forward. This is a reminder to me that I am worthwhile and a precious gift from God. I am worthy of life and all that it has to offer.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 o r text “START” to 741-741 .

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

How to cope with being in a teen psychiatric ward

It can be frightening to consider mental health treatment for your loved one. However, if the strategies you’ve attempted with your teen have fallen short of expectations, it might be time to consider enlisting the help of a professional. Teen mental health treatment is vital for helping your adolescent truly thrive if they are struggling with a mental illness. If you have observed signs that your teen needs adolescent inpatient psychiatric treatment with an Ohio mental health program, we urge you to reach out to Sunrise Vista to learn more about our individualized programs. Our professionals understand the full spectrum of care. With their meaningful assistance, your teen can get back on the path to success today.

Adolescent Mental Health Treatment

You may be wondering, how can a teen inpatient treatment program help my child, specifically? With Sunrise Vista, we strive to treat the whole individual. This means we take a holistic approach in our inpatient behavioral health program. If your teen is exhibiting behavior that leads you to believe that their thought processes are becoming disordered, that is a major red flag that it is time to speak to a professional. But you may be wondering what that treatment includes. These are some of the skills that teen treatments will include:

Coping Skills

Practical ways to handle feelings that may be uncomfortable for teens can help them fight serious symptoms or crisis situations.

Self-Care

This can include activities like mindfulness practices that can help ease emotional overload.

Recognition

Noticing and expressing emotional needs helps to lessen the impact of emotions that may be overwhelming.

Redirection

This is a synthesis of recognition and coping skills in which a teen gains the insight to notice a behavior that causes a need to cope.

Structure

Offering the benefit of a routine to troubled teens gives them a model for success. During times when a teen is very busy, this can help them stay on the path to continue caring for their emotional wellbeing and coping with new stressors.

Physical Symptom Management

It is important to check in on body wellness as well as emotional wellness. This holistic approach helps to treat an individual as a whole. This can help teens recognize and tend to changes in their physical symptoms, as well. We welcome people of all races, backgrounds, and gender identities to our mental health center. A few examples of programs we offer include the following:

  • Inpatient mental healthcare
  • Partial hospitalization program
  • Intensive outpatient program

Your teen will leave Sunrise Vista’s teen mental health treatment program with a specially honed toolbox of new skills and ways to cope with mental illness or dual diagnosis concerns. As your teen re-integrates back into the family unit, they will begin to use these real-world mechanisms to find success in their daily lives.

Sunrise Vista’s Inpatient Behavioral Health Program In Ohio

Our Ohio location stays ahead of the therapy curve with unique programs for teens and leading industry-recognized treatments. Here are some of the services we offer that may be of special interest to teens who are entering our adolescent inpatient psychiatric program:

  • Treatment options are short-term or long-term
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Mindfulness skills workshops
  • Dual-diagnosis assessment
  • Crisis stabilization
  • Creative therapy options with a focus on music and art
  • Life blogs

Our treatment plans focus on the individual, so it is important that we offer a full spectrum of tools and workshops that will help your teen work through a crisis to meet their long-term healthcare goals. Our experienced professionals can offer your loved one a depth of care that can help them define and reach new goals as they work through how to cope with mental health symptoms.

Seek Teen Psychiatric Treatment With Sunrise Vista’s Mental Health Treatment Center

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W hen I was 16 I became weirdly fixated on getting straight As in my exams at school. That’s the only way I know how to explain it. I’d had symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder for as long as I could remember, but was so used to the repetitive thoughts looping round my head that it was as normal as blinking. Once under stress, they quickly mushroomed, and trying to deal with them one by one became like a pointless game of whack-a-mole – every time I got rid of one compulsion, my brain would find three new ones.

I was diagnosed with OCD and depression and put on medication. My mum initially treated this like a quirky lifestyle choice and put it down to reading The Bell Jar too many times or having that famous picture of Richey Edwards from the Manics on my bedroom wall.

Then I went properly, full-on mad. To the extent that no one knew what to do with me. I had started walking out of school, sometimes mid-lesson, and was having panic attacks. I started to cut myself off from friends at school, preferring to spend lunchtimes sitting alone in the library; it took what felt like a Herculean effort to behave like I was normal for eight hours a day. I remember thinking school was stopping me from studying as much as I needed to, which seems mad now, but at the time felt totally reasonable.

After a night spent crying hysterically while my dad reassuringly shouted, “She’s going to Carstairs! We need to put her in Carstairs!” (Scottish Broadmoor, thanks Dad), I was placed in a tier 4 unit that was part of the local child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs).

I didn’t even know it was called that until recently: it sounds very official for what was actually a holding pen for people no one else could be bothered with.

I ended up attending this unit daily for two months instead of school. I can’t say it helped, other than providing me with a lot of weird anecdotes. I used to think I was imagining how bad my unit was, that maybe I was delusional as well as depressed, but now I suspect not – 10 years on, the woeful lack of provision for mentally ill teenagers frequently appears in the news and on TV. I felt vindicated when a report by charity Young Minds last year found major failings within Camhs services, some of which mirrored my own experience. Those failures included a lack of beds – with some children sent as far as 275 miles for care, or admitted to adult mental health wards due to a lack of bed space. Young Minds also raised concerns over staff shortages, and ward closures, with 5,784 bed days lost during 2013. And this month it was reported that more than 500 children in Hull and East Riding alone were on the waiting list for Camhs.

Referral times are worse than ever now, but even 10 years ago the system was chaotic and inconsistent. By the time anyone noticed there was something seriously wrong with me, I had gone mad, taken an overdose, gone mad again and was over the worst of it upon attending the unit.

For us, a typical day would be spent bickering with support staff in the morning over petty, ever-changing rules, followed by group therapy, doing strange artwork-cum-trust exercises with the occupational therapist and watching telly. Despite the known curative properties of watching repeats of Jeremy Kyle, I selfishly replaced them with “school time”, where my justifiable panic over how I’d ever study for my highers in a mental unit were mistakenly interpreted as part of my illness.

There was no sharing of information between services (the small matter of me trying to top myself was never passed from A&E to the referring psychiatrist), there was never any explanation of a structured care plan, or if there was, no one told me. I received one hilarious session of what I think was meant to be cognitive behavioural therapy, where the unit manager dramatically pushed a tissue box askew (“How does THAT make you feel, Fern? Hmm?”) as I tried not to laugh.

We were spoken about with disdain and in oddly clinical terms – “the young people” and “service users” – instead of treated as real people with valid feelings. There was always the vague sense that I’d done something wrong, that we’d all done something wrong, even though we hadn’t.

A lot of innocuous things we did or said were pathologised and treated suspiciously as manipulative behaviour indicative of a personality disorder. I’d love to say adulthood has brought me fresh insight into this, but my experience as a support worker in a similar service a few years ago only reinforced my belief that the staff charged with our care were poorly trained at best, needlessly antagonistic at worst.

An example: on my first visit there, while trying to work out how to make polite chitchat about schoolwork with another patient, I said “maths is crap”. I was sternly told off for inappropriate language. At the time I wouldn’t even have sworn in front of my parents.

Another day, during a pleasant chat with our only teacher in the unit, I asked which schools he’d taught at before. He replied and looked unfazed, I got on with my French revision and thought nothing of it. I was later told off by the head nurse in front of everyone for failing to respect boundaries.

They really made me feel like I might be a serial killer rather than someone with a common and treatable illness. I wasn’t the only one this happened to – in a place full of fairly quiet girls whose main hobbies were self-harming and wearing black, we were handled with a caution more suited to violent criminals. We alternated between laughing and getting frustrated by it all. It’s hardly ideal to be treated like delinquents when your identity is still forming. I quickly stopped thinking of myself as quiet and became increasingly aggressive.

Radges, Fern Brady’s BBC3 pilot based on her time in a mental health unit Photograph: BBC

I discharged myself not long after turning 17. There was no follow-up, no transition into adult services, no further appointments, I just walked out. Depressingly, this is still happening in Camhs across the country, even though everything points to early intervention as the best way to prevent more complex, less treatable problems down the line. My parents, initially so keen for me to go there, made no objection to my leaving. It was obvious the place was only making me worse after I started smoking and leaving incredibly bad love letters from one of the other girls lying around my room.

It might seem like an odd source for comedy, but it felt inevitable I’d end up writing a sitcom about it. The grim spectacle of 10 crazy teenagers and nurses singing Happy Birthday to me in group therapy, the love letters and horrible Argos necklaces from the tiny skinhead girlfriend I acquired in there, a group of teens competing over which of us was the maddest – none of it was effective treatment. But all of it was funny.