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When Your Teen is Admitted to a Psychiatric Hospital

It took four hours to admit my 15-year-old son, Bob, to the psychiatric hospital for suicidal ideation. It had been a long stressful day since Bob told his therapist he almost killed himself the night before. She had made Bob sign a safety contract then released him to me. I tried to keep him busy and distracted, but by late afternoon he could fight no more. Bob asked me to take him to the hospital.

The admission process was painfully slow. Several people asked Bob the same, endless questions. Each time Bob answered them my heart clenched.

Finally, they gave him a gown and took him away.

Admitted your teen to the psychiatric hospital can be scary. This parent of a suicidal teen shares her story of her child in the psychiatric hospital.

My husband, Bill, and I returned to the hospital with some of Bob’s belongings. It was 10:00 p.m. and I felt a small sense of relief. My son was alive and safe for now.

“Why are you crying?” I asked Bill. It had been a horrifying and hectic day, but sadness was not what I was feeling.

“I didn’t realize how sick he is.”

I did. Bob had showed signs of depression in second grade. He tried antidepressant medication in sixth grade, then was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. At the beginning of ninth grade, I brought Bob to this exact hospital because he became violent, but he was not admitted.

Everything had been leading up to this moment. While my spouse had always been supportive, it took this hospitalization for him to fully understand. Our son has a serious mental illness and it was not going away.

Mental Hospitals Provide Safety and Structure for Patients

The next week was a blur. We were allowed to speak to our son on the phone for 10 minutes, twice a day. We could visit for two hours each evening.

Visiting our son felt like visiting a high security prison:

  • Only immediate family members were allowed.
  • No more than two visitors at a time were permitted.
  • All visitors were searched.
  • No outside food, unless earned was allowed.
  • No candy or treats were permitted.
  • No contraband (straws, staples, drawstrings) were allowed.

Each night we sat with Bob in a large, barren room. He was inattentive and sometimes hostile, mostly towards me. It was excruciating to sit with him.

Hospital Staff Guide Parents of Mentally Ill Children

We met with Dr. Clark mid-week. She blasted information, directions and statistics at us. She explained Bob would be at high risk for suicide after his release from the hospital. Therefore, she ordered eyes-on-supervision 24/7 for 30 days. There would be no electronics and no contact with Bob’s girlfriend. She described suicide contagion. She told us 80% of marriages fail after a child’s suicide.

As we left the meeting, we saw Bob exercising with a group in the visitation room. He looked like a zombie as he swayed back and forth, arms outstretched, eyes vacant.

My next door neighbor came over to help me make the house safe, a job I couldn’t do alone. We started with the obvious harmful objects. Soon I became crazed suggesting every household item could be dangerous. My friend talked me down, but it wasn’t easy.

Admitted your teen to the psychiatric hospital can be scary. This parent of a suicidal teen shares her story of her child in the psychiatric hospital.

Another friend came by over the weekend to help redecorate Bob’s room. She skillfully displayed Bob’s memorabilia on the walls. I arranged the many cards and gifts that arrived.

Bob was released after eight days inpatient. When we got to the house, he saw the balloons on the mailbox. We stopped to take pictures with his little sister. When he saw his room and all his personal items on display, he cried. Though the battle wasn’t over, my son was home.

You can find Christina on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

62 thoughts on “When Your Teen is Admitted to a Psychiatric Hospital”

  1. My son was admitted this week and your experience could have been verbatim if mine. My son is still in hospital and it has made me realize the reality of the situation. I just couldn’t see it until now. It’s been a very painful road. But I’m grateful that he was admitted and nervous about when he is released. Thanks for your blog!

    1. For me, Patty Ann, realizing my daughters’ reality for a major step in getting help. Denial is such a seductive place to go. But, as difficult as it is to face the hard truth, it was my first step to freedom and hope.

  2. Thankyou for sharing your story. I am at a loss right now what to do for my daughter. She is 22 I am her guardian because she has a learning disability. She is so angry lately good days then more bad days. This has been going on since she was 17. I have tried counseling no luck. Then at one point I called a helpline and they did not feel it was necessary for her to be in a hospital. Hmmm really looking around my messed up living room. I have no help with this. I feel like a prisoner I have no future

  3. Thank you for providing some hopeful information. Our son went in today and our heads are spinning. Thank you again.

    1. Had to leave my son last night. The look on his face was devastating. I’ll never get over it. I was supposed to help him and I couldn’t;(

      1. Hi Donna, This is Susan Traugh, another blogger on HealthyPlace. I remember the first time I had to leave my daughter. Two attendants were restraining her while she screamed, “Mommy, please, please don’t leave me!” It was a knife in my heart…even ten years later. But, I know it was the right thing to do. Years later, my daughter and I talked about it. Her reply summed up this whole impossible situation when she said, “It was the worst thing that ever happened to me–that totally saved my life.” Remember, you DID help him. You just called in the cavalry.

    2. Hi Charles, I’m Susan Traugh, another blogger on HealthyPlace and the mom of two daughters with bipolar who have both been hospitalized on more than one occasion. I’m glad you found this post helpful and believe that your hopefulness is well-placed. I wish you and your son the best of luck on this journey.

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