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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:

I 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.

Today, 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.

138 thoughts on “Admitting a Child to Inpatient Psychiatric Treatment: A Parent’s Perspective”

  1. I fewl hopeless I am in the middle of waiting for my sons dr appt to diagnose him with OCD he has anger issues and he screams hits and acts out of control he is only 5 but had been showing symptoms of ocd since he was a year and a half he has trouble in school he fights me every morning I have to practically drag him out of the car to get him to go sometimes I dont know what to do but cry its so hard dealing with this he just does not listen to me at all they are already wanting him to be held back and he says he hates his teacher i feel out of options

  2. Hello All…I have 2 nine year old twin girls diagnosed with ASD/ADHD and Bipolar…their school has been aware of these disorders but recently their school absences have accumulated to the point where the school needed a doctor excuse from their pyschiatrist stating their disorders make it difficult at times to attend school and when one is sick the other will not attend alone. They got the doctor excuse bug now are adking for their medical records go be faxed go the school counselor…is this illegal and can information be used to kick them out of school?…They are perfectly behaved students and at home have not been a harm to themselves of others..when meds need adjusting the mania is mainly loud hyper behaviour nothing dangerous..they never exhibit any if this behaviour in school and I think the school is almost disbelieving of their diagnoses…nevertheless the school now seems nervous? Please help any advice?

    1. Hi Anna,
      Have you tried just talking to the special education department at your school? Sometimes a simple conversation is enough to straighten out any misunderstandings and have everyone get on the same page. However, if you have real fear that the school is trying to exclude your daughters, you may need to take a more proactive path. Assuming you are in the U.S., the school has no right to ask for your girls’ medical records. While I cannot offer any legal or professional advice, parent-to-parent I will tell you that if they are not already, you should immediately get them on a 504 or IEP (Individual Education Plan) for their disabilities and request accommodations for their medical issues. (You must do this in writing.) If this is a public school, they also can’t really kick them out for their absences, especially if a disability has been identified. You may want to contact your local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) for references regarding local resources. If necessary, you may also want to contact an advocate. Many times special education advocates provide free initial consultations. This might give you the information you need to protect your girls. Good luck.

  3. How do you know when it’s time for inpatient treatment for your 8 year old son with anxiety, OCD, depression, executive function disorder and possible ADHD with language based learning disability his rages and anger are getting worse and taking a toll on our whole family. I’m torn.

    1. Hi Tiffany Marie,

      I’m sorry to hear that your son is having such difficulties and how it is affecting your whole family. To answer your question, if you are asking if it is time, it probably is. And, if that seems like an overwhelming decision to rest in your hands, be assured that you will not have to make it alone. Over the years, my two daughters have been hospitalized a half-dozen times in nearly as many hospitals. While the process differs a little from place to place, basically, the decision-making is made by a team. I’ll give my information to an intake worker who analyzes it for the hospital criterion for admission. If it looks like my child qualifies, the paperwork goes back to either a psychiatrist or a team (the psychiatrist, therapist and social worker might be on the team) and they then decide on admission and a treatment plan. Usually, my daughters were admitted, but one time I was referred to an intensive outpatient program where my child attended sessions daily from 8-4 Monday through Friday. From my girls’ experiences, I would say that both types of programs offer good tools for both my child and our family. Finally, I would encourage you to err on the side of action. I waited too long to admit my youngest daughter and put her and our family through much more distress than was needed. For me, inpatient care seemed so drastic that I just didn’t want to go there. Once I finally did, I kicked myself for not getting my daughter the help she needed earlier. Whatever you decide, Tiffany Marie, I wish you the best on your journey and hope that you find the support system your son and your family needs.

  4. I know this was published a few years ago but finding others in this position helps. My five year old was just admitted to an acute psychiatric facility. It had to have been the worst day of my life. He kept talking about killing animals and other people and I had no choice. We think his dad has most of the fault for what he’s saying because of things he’s said in the past. All I know is I feel like a horrible mother who should have paid more attention or done more.

    1. Try not to come down on yourself. Parenting is hard enough, and I know parenting a child with a mental illness can be even harder and lonlier. I know it was scary, but the hospital is a good place to get help. They can refer you and your child to counseling, psychiatry, abuse support, or anything else you may need. Good luck, and best wishes to your family.

    2. Hi Katie,

      I agree with Melissa–do not beat yourself up. You have enough on your plate. In addition to Melissa’s wise suggestions, I might add that you may want to contact 1-800-4-A-CHILD. This is a hotline providing help and support for victims of child abuse. In addition to the hospital, this resource can direct you to the help both you and your son need to navigate this issue. Good luck to both of you and I am glad that you’ve taken the first step on the road to healing.

  5. Hi I’m am 14 but my little brother is Vinelent and beets up on are mom and little sister and if he doesn’t get his way he screems and beets up on me and my mom and little sister he’s 7 but his Vinelent

    1. Hi, Timothy. I’m sorry to hear this is happening. I know what it’s like as a parent, but I can’t imagine having a sibling like this. If you all are ever in physical danger, you can call 911 for help or a local mobile crisis team. Talk to your mom about this ahead of time so that you have a crisis plan, and she’s aware and approving of it. There are also abuse hotlines you can try. For instance, National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Stay safe!

  6. I’m also having issues with my 12 year old son. He’s acting out at school, there’s not a day I don’t get a phone call or email from a teacher or administrator. He’s been suspended countless times this year. Mental health is not helping us at all and they say they don’t have resources to help. We go to the dr there for 15 minuets a month and they want me to diagnose my son. I often am afraid to even say anything at these meetings because I don’t want them to take what I say and twist it. That have changed his diagnosis and medication countless times within the last six months. He does act out at home and I have an older daughter and a younger daughter and I am definitely afraid of him around the youngest because he can be very absive to her. I’m at the end of my rope. I have even contacted the pediatrician her recommendation was to take him to a children’s hospital. They don’t take my insurance and won’t let me pay in cash, they said it would void his regular health insurance. He needs to have some Nero Physh testing done but there is a 9 month wait. At times he is Suicidal and self harming. Anyone have any ideas?

    1. Hi Bobbie,

      Have you tried talking to your local NAMI organization? NAMI is the National Alliance for Mental Illness and has chapters all over the country. You can find a number for them here on HealthyPlace.com on their “Resource” page. You might also want to try calling 211. This is a referral service for Health and Human Services. They often have a list of resources in your community and hotlines that you can call immediately. I’m so sorry to hear that you are having such difficulties and hope that you find some help for your son very soon.

    2. Hi, Bobbie —

      If he’s making suicidal statements, I would call 911 or take him straight to the hospital. Otherwise, have you talked to the school about an IEP? In most places, if a child is on an IEP for an emotional/behavioral disorder, they have to take far more steps before suspending that child and need to institute many more accommodations to help. I don’t know where you’re located, but if you’re in the U.S., definitely talk to your school about an individualized education plan (IEP). If he already has one, they may need to up the hours of support he receives. Does your child have a psychiatrist? That person may know of good referrals for day programs or residential treatment as well. Look into your local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), they usually have better local resources. Otherwise, definitely keep your appointments for the neuropsych eval. Might as well put it on the calendar now, even if it is a long wait. I’m really hoping your school will have more options for you. I’ve been there. I know it’s rough. Best of luck.

  7. Hello All. I have a 7 year old that was hospitalized back in May for psychosis. Dropping him off and leaving him there was excruciating so I understand how difficult having a mentally ill child is. But unlike most of the posts I’m reading here, my son doesn’t have anger, rage, or defiance issues. My son is a paranoid schizophrenic. He has hallucinations at school (in 1st grade) that terrify the school staff. He is also autistic and has ADHD and GAD, so when he hallucinates, he draws attention to himself and makes him even more of a target for bullies and mean kids. He feels his “spirits” shooting him and he sees blood running out of his chest. He drops to the floor because he feels as though he is being tasered (one of his special interests is being a police officer). He won’t go anywhere by himself, even in our own home during the day. Never…He believes he is being watched, that Hitler is going to kill him in his sleep, and that even the kids at school who are nice to him are out to get him and laugh at him (not true). Yesterday, he heard voices whispering, “I’m going to kill you!” He hears command voices telling him to hurt himself or kill me. School is very difficult for him and right now he only attends half days and has a full time aid. He cries all the time, often for no apparent reason. I feel that this is just the beginning of a very tough road. I live in a place far from friends and family. Every so often, I will meet someone with a child my son’s age and we will agree to get them together to play. But shortly after, they disappear and once again, I am alone. The really sad thing is that even in the midst of his disorder, my son wants friends so badly it has become an obsession for him but as of now, he doesn’t have any friends. We have gone almost the entire school year without a single birthday party invitation. When he had his party, we handed out 16 party invitations and only one child came. Her mom was the room mom and I guess she didn’t get the memo..
    What I wish for my son is that he can get to a place of self-confidence. I would love for him to have a real friend and be a happy little boy. I don’t want him to be afraid all the time. I hope that one day he will be able to navigate his world with success. He is my only child and I just want to see him grow up into a happy, productive adult. Right now, thinking this far ahead is depressing. I worry about who will be around to take care of him (and love him) after his father and I are gone. He will be all alone and at the mercy of a terribly stigmatizing illness. Even his doctors cannot give me hope for a successful future for him.

    1. Hi. I have a 10 yr old daughter. I am contemplating what my options are and what to do right now. Like this blog, wtf js an hr a month ask her her feelings gonna do? When she is going to school lying about sex, my sins friends touching her ( it is def a lie. it is no possible way it could have happened) She is extremely obsessed with sex, she lies not small things but big knes for attention, she steals, she has no empathy, no remorse for anyyhing…but she is a great con artist that easily makes folks believe her pitiful stories. I cannot go to school and hold her hand. I get blocked by some sort if wall witj every program that the school offers may it because we make just enough f to NOT be eligible for medicaide…..I cannot take anymore, it is daily that I am getting calls from parents, teachers and so in and no-one seems to want to help me. my biggest fear is she is going to lie on another child and someone is going to hurt her….i think my only option is to admit her somewhere or allow the state to take over custody.

      1. Matthew Not sure if this helps but my 12-year-old daughter does the exact same thing lied about somebody raping her holding her down and talk about sex all the time we’ve just recently two days ago admitted her into a psychiatric hospital and on her own recognizance she decided to stay I’m not sure how it’s going to work out but I will keep in touch she’s going to be admitted now for a week depending on her progress

      2. I feel everyone’s pain I have and 8 year son he’s been in partial been in Cpac what ever it’s called they didn’t help him so today I had to call the school and tell them he had a ruff morning he hit his sister and dad then through a space heater so he continued in school by swearing saying he’s going to kill every one and he tells that to us all the time so I’ve been up since 5:00am Tuesday and I’m at the hospital cuz he got transported from school to here I just want to get help for him I want him to be happy again

    2. Dear Nicole,

      I’m so sorry for the painful position in which you find yourself. You are right, it is such a difficult journey when our kids suffer from mental illness. Your son is lucky to have such a concerned advocate on his side, and it sounds like you are doing all you can. As far as friends are concerned, have you tried joining the local NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) group in your area? They have meetings for families and this might be a good place to meet other families whose kids are dealing with similar issues. I believe you’d find parents who understand your situation and are more tolerant of your son’s behavior. HealthyPlace.com has numbers for NAMI on the Resource Page of this site. Additionally, NAMI might offer you the support you need as you journey with your son–it is much easier when we have an ear or two to listen. My son was placed into a non-public school when he was in middle school. It changed everything for him. The small size (8 kids to a classroom) and supportive setting allowed him to make lots of friends and really feel like he was part of something. It really changed our lives. Finally, you may want to look into some financial planning for your son’s future. Some providers allow for free initial consultations. It might relieve your mind to begin creating a plan for your son’s future. I wish I could offer you more, but do know that there is support out there. My thoughts are with you.

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