Admitting a Child to Inpatient Psychiatric Treatment: A Parent’s Perspective

Four years ago, I admitted my then-six-year-old son to an inpatient psychiatric hospital. Much has changed in four years, but reading my thoughts from the time brings it all back. It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on any parent; one I hope I never have to live again.

From my personal blog, January 2008:

11I have a call in to a local children’s psychiatric hospital about admitting Bob on the acute-care unit in the very near future.

Things have been getting worse over the past couple of weeks. The last time I picked him up from (his father’s), he was a snarling, angry, hateful little boy who kept talking about his dad going to jail and it being my fault, and he was going to hit me in the stomach for it. He started repeating the same annoying sound over and over again and when I asked him to stop, he gave me a mean laugh and said “daddy told me to do that.” And so on and so forth.

The weekend was rough. He spent a good part of it in time out for one transgression or another. He frequently growled and yelled “I hate the world!” and “I hate all humans!” and “all mommies should shut up and go away!”

Yesterday, the principal called at noon. Bob was being suspended for the day. When I got there, he was pacing the office like a caged animal. He refused to come with me. It took both of us to remove him from school and get him into my car. I then had to physically hold him in his seat for 45 minutes to keep him from getting out and running off. He kicked me, tried to bite me, and slapped me (hard) across the face. I took him to my office where he snarled at me until (husband) came to take him home.

21Today, he said he was ready to go back to school. We met with the principal and he apologized and said he was ready to do better. I emailed his teacher around 1:00 and found out today hasn’t been much better, and the other kids in his class are becoming afraid of him. I suggested he not go to art class (he doesn’t like the teacher) and got a reply back that he’d slapped another kid and was back in the office, and wouldn’t likely be going to art.

I don’t know what to do. Therapy hasn’t helped. The courts haven’t helped. Psychiatry hasn’t helped, because you can’t spend 10 minutes a month asking a 6-year-old how he feels and expect to get the whole picture. There’s only so much I can do, because in Bob’s mind, I’m the problem. And he cannot go on this way.

Which is why I made the call.

The thought of taking my baby somewhere and leaving him, even if only for an overnight or a few days…Jesus. It’s killing me.

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84 Responses to Admitting a Child to Inpatient Psychiatric Treatment: A Parent’s Perspective

  1. Toni J says:

    Yes it is very hard to deal with these issues.. and it looks like you may need to track down some resources as it is not easy to get the right resources.. I would start with an assessment clinic that also does evaluations..Only because i have dealt with some of the same issues.. I know that some clinics will just hold the child in limbo.. Too long with therapy that is not working.. and suspect it is for the insurance. removing visitation while dealing with the crisis and in the meantime I would use some play therapy at home to allow him to express anything he wants to say without taking it personally.. Just remembering he is young and only feels hurt therefor taking it out on everyone.. He has to be able to express it at some point

  2. tonia says:

    Hello. I have a 6 year old little girl who has ADHD, ODD, and possibly autism on the spectrum, I am waiting on results. I am struggling because she is sweet child who has frequent angry outbursts that are getting violent. I was told by her doctor to take her to the hospital but I don’t know if I should because the tantrum may stop by the time I get her there,. So I guess my question is when do I take her and does she have to be in the middle of an outburst in order to go. I live in Ohio. Thank you

  3. Bob says:

    We have found that it is very helpful to pull out a camera and record the child during their anger tantrums. Let them know that you are doing it so you can share it with people who are going to help them. Seems to calm things down with our foster son and you really do have something to share with professionals if the tantrum continues.

  4. Abby says:

    I’m an emotional wreck tonight. My 6 year old who is extremely smart, funny, silly little boy. However he has extremely bad outburst and is very rough with his brother. We have seen a psychiatrist, psychologist, evaluation after evaluation. He has aspergers. He’s so violent at times of tantrums. Tonight he tried to throw a brick at his brother being only one it scared me to the fullest. Hes calm now and doing well. What should I have done? Do I have to have him admitted? My heart is aching.

  5. christi says:

    hi,I need some help.I know this doesn’t belong in a comment box but I’m desperate.I have a 16 year old boy in 11 grade he’s on resperidone daily .5 mg morning and night.well all of a sudden two days now. he’s weird.sleeping a lot stares at you with a blank look he looks drunk and keeps saying he feels really weak.took him last night to emergency room and they just say he’s dehydrated maybe but seems totally normal.tested his blood ad well and it’s all negative .wat should I do. lost he also keeps scratching his body really bad. plenary someone give me some advice what to do.

  6. Hi Christi,

    I’m the blog manager here as there is no blog author for this blog at the moment.

    I would recommend consulting your psychiatrist (or whomever prescribed the medication) immediately. He may not be reacting well or even having an allergic reaction.

    There are many medications and this may simply not be the best for your son.

    - Natasha Tracy
    - Blog Manager

  7. Eris allen says:

    I need to find to help for 15 yr that alway s in troble and school.and at home
    He trying to make prblem in my life my faimly and boyfriend I put him a bunch behaiver housp and he getting troble with laws for something he always mean to younger bother to I need some ideals where mit can put in housp that keep in more then a mouth and how get something court to place him so he can some help

  8. Tanisha Dimiduk says:

    I read your story and completely understand. My son (now 8) has had some of the same issues hating his family, trying to hurt himself, meds, therapy, & 2 7 day hospital stays only to keep sending him home to continue the behavior. He attempted to kill his 3 year old sister & still nothing. A year & a half of therapy & NO change in behavior & not 1 person can explain y he has anger issues or hate his mfamily. He suffers from depression & no one has done anything to help him. 2 therapists, 2 psychiatrist, 2 Dyfs cases & a case manager & no one has yet to kno anything more or even suggested temporary out of home placement. What can i do?? I believe I’m becoming depressed myself.

  9. Cassi T says:

    My son is 6 and out of control. We havent got to see a psychiatrist yet and its over a month until his initial appointment. I cant go like this another month. My son is abusive towards me and my 10 year old son. He wont try to hurt his dad just destroys the house when he is home. Today alone since school got out(2 hours ago) he has thrown a glass bowl at me and shattered it, hit me with the broom, hit me with a metal flag holder and found a knife saying he was going to kill himself. He threw a pair of scissors at me this morning and threw the phone at my head this morning as well. He has also thrown knives at me in the past… The doctors office suggested we go to the hospital but it scares me that they will keep him. His dad isnt on board with taking him either. We are his parents… We should be able to help him shouldnt we? Im scared of how my child is turning out…

  10. Eris allen says:

    I need some help for my 15 yr boy bramden allen he out of control he been in alot of behavior hosp and meds he been in troble with and school amd home he mean to his 12 yr borther all the amd even my bpyfriemd he has a consherl that see him omce a week he want to be in control of the house and break me up with my boyfriend he also tore my car up I had pay 580$ in the last mouth to get fix he breaks in the house went im amd bring kid un my home without asking he in probtion also does any kmow where in can get help with him amd placed somewhere more then a mouth

  11. Rita says:

    My son was getting aggresive spells as well. I stopped giving him sugar and he got back to almost normal. Sleeping early also helps.

  12. Becky says:

    I have an 8 year old son that was diagnosed with Aspergers Disorder at age 4. The past 4 years have been really rough. He threatens and gets physical with staff and students at school. We had tried everything possible from Psychiatrists to Psycologists, one on one mentoring, in home intensive therapy, A TEECH assessment from UNC Chapel Hill and countless other programs. Nothing had seemed to help. After a serious incident at school we decided that we were going to have to take him to a mental health facility for a assessment before he got charged and got placed there through juvenile court. As much as it broke our hearts, it was one of the best things we have ever done for him. He was admitted for what began as a possible 7-11 day stay for medicine management and daily individual and group therapy with other kids. He was there for 29 days. He had an additional diagnosis of Bipolar disorder while in the hospital. Upon being discharged I felt he was 90% better than he was prior to being admitted. Its now been 8 months since he was in the hospital, he seems to be building an immunity to the medicine and things are getting really bad again, maybe even worse than before so its looking like we will be going back for another assessment. For all the Moms, Dads, Grandparents or guardians who are debating this option in my opinion its worth a shot. As hard as it is on us parents its better to do something now than to wait until they are older and you cant do anything. Hope this helps in some way.

  13. Helen says:

    All the talking on here is good but once again still no help on where to go and what to do to get help for my 16 year old grandson

  14. Christina says:

    I understand. As I write this I am sitting in the ER waiting for a bed in the pediatric unit for the night. Why a regular hospital? Because here in Idaho there is only one option for inpatient treatment for a suicidal 11 year old. That option is three hours away and all 24 beds are full. So we must wait. And if we can’t get a bed in Boise tomorrow we can only hope the University of Utah has one. She needs help and I’m scared she will only fall through the cracks. I don’t want to find her hanging in her closet one day. I fpund out tonight, she has already tried several times, thankfully, unsuccessfully. So here we sit. I’m terrified to let her go, but see no other option. I just pray we can find a bed.

  15. dfghdaf says:

    hi, I am 15 years old… I have anxiety and depression that started when my dad died… I cut myself in the past… I haven’t done it recently… I have voices in my head that tell me whether or not I should hurt myself or someone else… I have before… I have asked my parents for therapy but they don’t believe in therapy… I want help before I hurt someone I love… what do I do?

  16. Hi,

    Please call a hotline as soon as you can as someone there may be able to help you and point you in a better direction. You can find a list of resources and hotlines here:

    - Natasha Tracy
    - Blog Manager

  17. Nacole says:

    My 11 year old daughter is currently in a behavioral hospital for depression and having taught of suicide. She frequently has tantrums and always getting into trouble. They are testing are for disorders (such as Austism).. This is all new to me and I have no idea where to start. I’ve been reading materials about Austism and some of the articles are describing my daughter. She was diagnosed with ADHD at age 7. Now the providers are telling me they think she has a incorrect diagnose. She is a very smart honor roll student. I’m just not sure how to help my baby.

  18. Melanie Holmes says:

    Hi! I am looking for help in the right direction. Long story short my 10year old daughter is very angry disrespectful young lady. Our family has been through a lot this year. I believe some of her issues are due to mine and her father’s mistakes. However she can not continue on the path she is on. She calls me a bitch tells me to shut up says she hates me she wants to kill herself. She says she wishes she had a different family. We currently live with my father. Her father is currently in jail. She is just as disrespectful to my Dad. She tells him to shut up calls him a old man .Tells him he’s country and needs to go back to the country. She tells him she doesn’t have to listen to him because he knows nothing about raising kids.Instead of asking us for something she trys to tell us what we are gonna do. I need help with her. She is now trying vto get physical. I’m afraid she’s gonna get hurt or she’s gonna hurt someone in the house.I would like to find a inpatient program near our town. I love my daughter so very much. I feel like she needs intense inpatient therapy. Can anyone possibly point me in the right direction.

  19. CYNTHIA says:

    Hello all, I am having some of the same challenges as you. My 11 year old son was recently diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. It sound like many of you might be in the same boat. Read “THE BIPOLAR CHILD” by Demitri Paroles, it might shed some insight. Everyone thought my child had a discipline issue… then I read that book. Good luck!

  20. CYNTHIA says:


  21. Sary says:

    Hello, I have a twelve year old daughter that was suspended from school. They said that she had threatened to kill two other students, I talked to her and she said that it was a joke, as of right now I’m trying to get her back in school, the play therapist said that that she is sick, the the therapist wanted to put her in a treatment facility. I don’t want to do that, I just want her to go back to school. Is there a way that I can get help?

  22. Mattysangel says:

    Hello everyone. I have a very special autistic nephew. He was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old. And was “officially diagnosed by 3 years old. He is now 3 1/2 and my sister (his mother is having a very hard time with his condition. Matthew is severely autistic. He is non verbal and is unable to give us feed on how and why he does and feels certain ways. The last 2 weeks he has had huge meltdowns, where he scratches his parents and himself until he bleeds. All over his little face. He crystal alot through out the day. He seems angry and bothered most of the days. I feel like his cries more often that any autistic kid. Sometimes he stares into space and doesn’t seem focused at all. And he will start laughing alot or crying alot outta nowhere. Does anybody know if there are any special doctors that can help us for his age. Pls we need help and guidance. My nephew is hurting himself so much. There is family history of mental illness in our family. Our father and sister suffer from bipolar disorder. How can I help him. Please I’m desperate to help my nephew and sister.

  23. Rhonda Nickerson says:

    I felt compelled to write, only because I have dealt with allot in the past 13 years. I have a bipolar 1, ADHD, son who is now 13, I also have an Autistic 11 year old. My life has been a whirlwind of tornados, storms, and bad weather. I have pounded the pavement countless times, only to have doors slammed in my face, friends turn there back on me, schools that don’t want my son in their building, I could go on and on. Having children with mental disorders is one of the toughest challenges anyone could ever endure. Thinking I would get great help if I fought an 18 month battle to get him on disability, was a joke. I won the battle, but the only help I got, was his prescriptions being paid for, which now are a whopping 8-9,000 dollars a month. Everything I have tried to do for this child, has been a fight, I still, after all these years do not have any answers as to how to control or help him control his anger outbursts, his rage and his mania. No matter what medicines they try. I’m tired of sticking this kid on all these medicines that have no effect, and I can only imagine how harmful they COULD be later on in his life. I’m no closer now than I was 8 years ago as to having any answers to his illness. It has made me a bitter person, bitter at our government for not doing more, bitter at the school system for not educating teachers for these types of children, and not paying them more so they won’t be angry in the classrooms when they have children like mine. I feel bad for anyone who has to go through any of what I am, because it is a long painful, tear jerking, emotional, roller coaster. No matter what, you need a support system. It is vital to you’re own well being. I’ve had my older children, my parents, and other family tell me all he needs is a good butt whooping, he doesn’t need medicine, he needs discipline. Really? Everyone acts like I don’t discipline my children. They don’t understand the ups and downs of mania, the personality changes, they think he’s just being a boy when he wants to have a pocket knife to whittle a whole tote full of wood. Then their attitude changes when all of a sudden he brings knives to school, now he’s no longer just a boy anymore. But a boy with charges. But that’s my fault. All of this is my fault. This has been the most craziest year ever. I moved recently, just because I couldn’t stand the school system where I was, and I wanted to move closer to family for more of a support system, and so far, this is how it has been. I know it’ll get better, I don’t know why he chose to bring knives to his new school. He really likes this school, he has never liked any school. I think in his own mind, he was trying to show off. After all, he is 13, with an 8 year old brain. It was innocent, he didn’t pull it out on anyone, and was very cooperative with the police. And I understand their fears, I would freak the he’ll out too. I still am! But I’m his mom, and no matter what, I have to stand behind him, support him during times like this, be the one he cried to when he realized that it was a huge mistake, and he wasn’t going to hurt anyone, but he had thought it would be neat to show them off. And the picture on the door of the school had been of a gun, that said no concealed weapons, he didn’t see no knives. He had forgotten about the conversation I had with him about you cannot take these knives anywhere, and can only use them here at home under my supervision. So once again, I am forced to take the door knobs off the doors, so I can check on him, because once again I fear he may try to kill himself again. Because he forgot. Again. These are the things I deal with everyday.

  24. Casie says:

    I have a 10 year old autistic child. He’s very aggressive to my husband & myself he doesn’t sleep he gets in my kitchen & gets into what ever he wants & now we have taken all the snacks out of the kitchen & putting a lock on the fridge & now I have cought him eating the cat food so we have put it up & now I’m at disbelief he’s eating his own poop. We are at our wits end with all that’s going on, on top of being fiscally harmed to were I have gotten a concusstion & had fingers broken, spit on hit kicked stuff throne at us!! I don’t know what to do anymore! We can’t keep liveing this way we live on different times now because I have to stay up at night to make sure he doesn’t try to hurt us or himself. Please can someone help us??

  25. Mrs. Wallace says:

    Hi, I have a 6 1/2 yr old girl who was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD when she was 5 1/2. That’s when I had to have her first hospitalized. That was the worst day of my life. No words can explain how I felt. But I felt as though I had no choice. Me and my husband has always had behavioral issues with her,but it seems as though the past couple of months leading up to the hospitalization was aggressively getting worse. There is no respect in our house we feel like we are walking on eggshells in our house. She treats us as if we are her kids. She has cursed, spit,hit and threaten us. And has lied on us. I’m so hurt I don’t know what to do anymore. She was hospitalized again and no help. She was on her best behavior. And the staff look at us wondering why we brought her there. She is very manipulating. I have never seen a child act the way she does. She only misbehaves a like this at and in the community. Not at school. We have a 1 1/2 year old boy as well and I don’t trust her alone with him. She has already spit thrown things and slapped him. I’m so afraid someone is going to get hurt. I’m having a mental break down. I don’t know what to do. She has a therapist she sees once a month that doesn’t help. She also has a psychiatrist who ask her rhetoric questions and keep prescribing medication I don’t think it’s working. She takes intuniv 5mg and concerts 18mg. Nothing seems to be working. I want this to pass my family needs help. I feel like the only thing that may work is for her to be hospitalized permanently. That’s the only way she follows order. But I can’t do that to my girl. So everyday I’m cringing praying it gets better. But I know I can’t keep her safe. Just the other day my mom, son,my daughter and i were at our local mall and she completely flipped out over pizza we were Getting in car and she started running back to store. My mom has to grab my son while I run after her. Mind you it’s a Fri evening in a big parking lot where cars are zipping pass. I had to hold her 45min while she’s fighting me. I was so afraid I couldn’t physically hold her anymore as cars went by. The onlookers the stares was a another thing in itself. My mother couldn’t believe she acted like that over a particular brand of pizza. The ambulance and police came and she tried fighting them telling them she knows karate. It’s one extreme to the next with her. I’m so heart broken. I just don’t understand this mental health illness and it hurts that I’m not able to help her. Someone please give me some advice. Thank you for letting me vent

  26. Dawn says:

    I have a 15 year old son. I just want to thank Ms. Rhonda Nickerson for her email on February 28, 2016. I totally identified with her. It is very frustrating. The verbal abuse from my son is getting worse. It is an everyday situation that is hard for me. My family cares but they really don’t understand. The support that I received from them has stopped because the stress is too much for them to deal with. There is never any time for myself. There are days that I just don’t eat because I am so unhappy because I can’t help my son. The medication is not working no matter what they give him. It is a matter of time that I will lose my apartment because the outburst are so loud that the neighbors are tired of it. The neighbors have approached me several times about this. This has gotten worse since he started high school September 2015. My son did so well in middle school. Once he got to high school getting excellent grades no longer matters to him. I can’t even ask him a question without him getting upset about it. I which someone would help all of us. We advocate for our children and no one seems to have any solution to our problems. Many of the facilities may not be good for them. You have no idea which of these facilities would be best without some help from an experienced professional. When you ask a professional about a residential facility that can’t seem to recommend one to you. I have spent so much money doing what I think is best to get my son the help he needs and that has put me into financial debt. There must be someone who is qualified to help all of us and keep us from struggling financially to do what is best for our children. We love our children but it is not healthy for us to deal with some much stress. I thought about reaching our to Dr. Phil but by the time he invites me to his show my son will be much older with additional problems.

  27. Michelle says:

    I have 10 year old daughter who no doctors in my area can’t seem to agree to what is really wrong. So after her beating up her older sister and younger brother I decided that I need to have her admitted to the hospital. Some of the stuff she is saying would horrify anyone and she actually ran away this morning lucky she went to the school where I was able to find her and let her know that was very bad idea. The medication that she is on would knock anyone else around and it no longer works. This week is one of her bad weeks and I’m stressed out so bad I get sick every time I eat or drink anything. I just wonder if I’m really doing the right thing? The safety of the other children is the only thing that tells me I’m doing the right thing.

  28. Amy says:

    My 14 Year old Daughter was recently diagnosed with bipolar. She was given Lithium and does not take it consistently. A friend told here there was nothing wrong with her and the doctor was “dumb”.
    She refuses to go to school and will give every excuse. We have court next week for Truancy. Last week she attacked her older sister while she was sleeping because “she made me mad earlier”.
    I am at a cross road as I would like to get her help and have even called a facility about admission procedure. Her father and I are divorced and he hasn’t been extremely active in her life however recently I have kept him in the loop as mental illness runs in his side of the family.
    He disagrees with me that inpatient treatment would help her. I firmly believe she needs the help that can be provided there as I think she needs some intensive counseling and was to learn to cope through the rough patches.
    Any thoughts or help are greatly appreciated.

  29. I am at a loss after exhausting all in order to find inpatient help for my 7 year old son. I live in n.m.round ElPaso Texas area. Does anyone have a clue? Please.

  30. Mary says:

    Wow thank you all for posting. I just took custody of a 11 year old boy who was institutionalized since age four. He is the son of my God daughter. I could not believe that she would not take him home. I fostered him on weekends when he was supposed to go home to her and then eventually fostered him legally until I got custody. He is highly manipulative because the real him did not show himself until after I got legal custody. The rest of my story is exactly the same as most of you. Just because I did not give birth to him makes it no easier to think about putting him in the hospital. It might make it harder because I feel so protective of him because his real mom just gave up. She had other children to consider. Now she is telling me not to put him in hospital because they will take him from me. Just like everyone on here I am shunned and looked at crooked. We are isolated and I feel like I am in prison in my own home. The emotional turmoil is making me physically ill.

  31. Jennifer johnson says:

    I have 2 boys one is 10 and the other is 7 they are both ADHD and my 10 year old talks about killing himself every time he gets in trouble for something. He has put marks on himself he told me husband he was gonna mark himself up and tell the cops he did it he has such hate for my husband don’t know why he has been here for 3 years now he is not there biological dad but he has been there. There dad has not been here for years. My 7 year old has left claw marks on me he has hit us punched us and laughed about it they have been in therapy after therapy but nothing seems to be working i need help

  32. Our son was diagnosed with Childhood Onset: Pervasive Developmental Disorder (full-blown autism) when he was 6-yrs. old, in 1984. From 18 mos. he shrieked, then began biting me frequently. He was very hyperactive. He ran out of our home, despite the bars on windows and padlocked doors. (He could pick the locks and run, even with me pulling him away as hard as I could.) He once set a fire in our kitchen when we were asleep. He was very fast, he would get away in public situations and immediately diappear. Despite our very best efforts he could get out of our car and run. He didn’t speak at all and became self-injurious.

    Today he lives in a supervised apartment, holds a job in an insurance company, has hobbies and friends, and loves his life. My husband and I love to visit back and forth with him.

    How did this miracle occur? When he was 7 my husband an I had to place our son in a group home for autistic children, because his behaviors could have killed him and he was too strong for us to continue saving him. It was the hardest thing we have ever had to do.

    It turned out to be one of the very best things we’ve ever done. The group home and its associated day school were run strictly on the science of applied behavior analysis. Each negative behavior was treated, with our consent. Data was frequently collected, demonstrating his progress or lack thereof. When the treatment didn’t help, the method of instruction was modified, until it allowed him to replace his negative behaviors with positive ones. The teachers at the school “shaped” our son’s behavior. For instance, his strange hand motions were modified to become excellent typing skills. His noises became singing, his self-injurious behavior became great care in grooming and dressing. The school overwhelmingly used positive reinforcement. The “punishment” there is witholding an expected reward.

    More and more of these schools are being established, those based on science, with completely consistent, frequent data collection, and charting of the data, with the principle that the child would learn if his teachers used the right method. Changing programs until they met the child’s needs. Positive reinforcement, accountability to parents and a human-rights review board not associated with the school. An “open” school, every child in the school could be seen by visitors.

    I cannot urge strongly enough that parents with children like mine seek out schools like my son’s and move heaven and earth to get your child into one.

  33. This school and group home did not cost us a cent. The Division of Youth and Family Services in NJ and fundraisers and donations covered everything.

  34. Also, we did not give our son medication. The school was an experimental one back in the day, and medication would have made our son unsuitable as a subject. The school was so good and he was supervised so carefully that it was not needed. We were required to bring our son home every third weekend, but teachers from the group home came to our home and taught us so we could act as therapists for our son. It was very difficult, but our son was and is worth it.

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