When Your Teen is Admitted to a Psychiatric Hospital

November 23, 2014 Christina Halli

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.

APA Reference
Halli, C. (2014, November 23). When Your Teen is Admitted to a Psychiatric Hospital, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 13 from

Author: Christina Halli

February, 18 2016 at 2:22 pm

I am only 13 but I have attempted suicide 6 times and when my mom found out about one of the attempts she just over looked the situation. I suffer from severe depression and all I can ever think about is suicide. I have thought about mine and my families safety and would like to be admitted into an phyciatric teen hospital but I don't know how to tell my mom. I don't know what to do anymore.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natasha Tracy
February, 19 2016 at 6:00 am

Hi Chloe,
I'm so sorry to hear that you're experiencing that. I do know what it's like to be depressed at 13 years old. I was that way too.
Please, please, please, don't hurt yourself. Please reach out for help (it sounds like you want this). Please contact a helpline:…
If you feel like you're in danger of hurting yourself and even a helpline isn't enough, call 9-1-1 or walk into an Emergency Room. That is what they are there for. This may help your parents understand how serious the situation is.
You can also talk to your school counselor about what is happening and they may be able to help you approach your parents as well.
Don't give up. Keep telling people you trust until someone helps you. You deserve help and you can get better.
- Natasha Tracy
- Blog Manager (and bipolar)

February, 11 2016 at 2:45 pm

I have read this story a few times, it is one of those things that gives me hope.

February, 11 2016 at 2:44 pm

My ER experience would be saying something to a teacher
that was along the lines of 'I don't want to live anymore'
who got worried and then called my parents who took me
to the hospital, I was temporarily admitted as they
assessed me and asked the same questions over and over
again. I lied and got released. I do regret it now but
I can't handle the shame.
There was a point over the summer where I couldn't take
it anymore and I called one of my family members, not
immediate, and asked them to take me to town. They
didn't understand why I asked and this happened
for the next week or so. Probably spent 3 nights
at their place. Parents sure were angry about it,
they didn't understand(and searched my room.)
I regret lying, as I had a chance to get some help
but I hate the shame and stigma around it. That is
what stopped me. I just want the pain to stop.
It is also getting bad again and I just want it
all to go away. I don't know what to do anymore.

February, 7 2016 at 9:47 am

Hi Christina,
I tried to find you on FB, but couldn't. Don't know if you are still on there. My teen is transgender (female body, male otherwise), since infancy I've notice I was raising a boy. His first time in a hospital was age 11, been 4 times all short term. Now Jace is 17 and feels he needs to go long term and I'm hoping we can find a good place for him. It's so difficult watching him go thru this and I can't relate at all. His dad is BiPolar, skitsofrenic, OCD and paranoid. He checked himself into a hospital in his late 20's for four years (we had been married for 6 years by that point) because he heard voice telling him scary things. Anyway, wondering & hoping if my baby will ever live a happy or somewhat normal life.

January, 27 2016 at 12:17 pm

I'm 16 and suicide is always on my mind. I would like to be admitted in a place that can help me but I don't know how well that will go. My weight is not that good. Sometimes I go many days without eating so I can faint or maybe even die I just want help. I wish I could get the proper help I need. I don't know how my mom would feel about this, being that she don't know or no one knows.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 17 2018 at 9:29 pm

Please tell your mom. My daughter tried to tell for awhile but I didn't understand what was going on with her at first but when she showed her wrist. I knew it was serious. I'm not telling you to do that but try telling her over and over again until she takes you to get help or talk to a mental health counselor at school or call one at the local mental health center.

January, 20 2016 at 6:20 am

My daughter found out about her fathers affair on her 16th birthday. She had been having anxiety attacks prior to the incident and she suffers from severe depression. At the age of 13, she harmed herself. I did not do anything at that time because I didn't know how to handle it. On Christmas Day, during church, she had a huge anxiety attack, passed out, and ended up in the hospital. They kept her as an impatient. It hurts to see my daughter so broken. She can't even attend school anymore so her work has to get sent home and she has to see a tutor. Meanwhile, her father and I are in the process of a messy divorce and he keeps dumping his problems on her. I am very close with her and she has been opening up to me a lot. Things are very hard for her and she has been having break downs almost daily. When under stress she can't breathe properly. I've taken her to a spa to get away but even then she had an anxiety attack. She barely sleeps, and she's gained 40 pounds in 2 years due to stress eating and the refusal of excersize. I'm very worried about my baby.

November, 16 2015 at 12:07 am

I talked someone out of committing suicide once and I can tell the parents at this site that people who are suicidal need to talk it out and a hug and ongoing TLC. If you don't know how to listen to your child's stuff yourself, encourage your child to ring a kidsline number as much as they need to to talk their stuff out, and probably get a counsellor too. consider different parenting approaches too - this can be very important. don't automatically trust the professionals without reading up on how to help your children using different approaches and techniques yourself. mental health treatment is not yet very good even in this day and age and poor mental health can be the symptom, not the cause, anyway. TLC will help your child a lot - if your approach to providing it is not working, read up on and try different approaches. Call in whatever help you can get - where there is a will, there is a way. I hope this information helps someone.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 17 2018 at 9:23 pm

Thanks Lisa . I will continue to provide TL.C to help my suicidal daughter. She has just been dx as major depressive disorder.

October, 2 2015 at 2:55 am

abby your story sounds like ours. our son is now on third stay but this time has made threats on our lives and won't talk to us now. it is very hard to see him like this.

July, 23 2015 at 1:50 am

My daughter is on her 5th hospital stay in two months. She loves being in the hospital despite it being like a prison. She does very well in the hospital because she wants to be there so then they discharge her. She even gets to the point of saying she wants to be home and can make things work.she comes home, escalates, and gets herself placed again. At one point we believe a hospital stay was necessary but now she's just manipulating. She was initially admitted for aggressive and violent behavior towards us but in the hospital learned about suicide attempts and self harm and is now engaged in that behavior. She has five diagnoses including bipolar and autism.

June, 9 2015 at 7:10 am

Touche. Great arguments. Keep up the amazing work.

January, 22 2015 at 4:31 pm

I am 15 years old and have been diagnosed with depression. I am currently seeing a therapist once two times a week. Suicide is always on my mind and I haven't eaten properly in a long period of time and my weight is dropping. I want to be checked into a mental hospital but am not quite sure how to go about that. I have four sisters. Three of which have attempted suicide. My dad is a former drug addict. I hate my mom. But mostly I struggle with self consciousness. I try to tell people that I uave a very hard time controlung my anger but they quickly dismiss it. I have also been diagnosed with trich *impulse control disorder which causes the need to pull out of one's hair.* I have gotten therapy for self harm in rhe past and I have a tendency to binge drink. Yes alcohol. But my therapist has yet to know that. I feel qs if i qm different from others at my school. I have also been diagnosed with ADHD. But its not only that.I anonymously told an online therapist these things and he said I have borderline personality disorder. Do you think this is correct? Any advice also on being admitted would be immensely appreciated. Thanks

December, 10 2014 at 4:30 pm

My ex-wife abandoned the children last year for a man she met on Facebook. She has a history of mental illness, re-triggered after the birth of our second child and she slowly deteriorated which led to the children's neglect when I was at work.
Six months after the ex's departure, my older daughter 14yrs, who had been emotionally traumatized, told her school she attempted suicide. She was already being treated with psych med changes, and a psychologist in dealing with her mother's abandonment. But her PTSD, mood swings, desocialization etc eventually became diagnosed as bipolar.
She was hospitalized twice since and has recently been violent toward my other daughter 10yrs and myself on several occasions. We've had her to many family and private therapy sessions to deal with it. Despite med changes, two psychologists, a truncated school schedule, and constant love and support in the best home I could provide, she only gets worse.
Recently, my daughter in a low point, falsely accused me of physical and verbal abuse to the school psychologist. She said that I hit her with a pillow to coax her to get up and go to school yet it was she who became violent hitting and throwing things.
Well, the school reported it to cps, and now she's with an aunt, my ex's sister, who believed her outright without asking me, she herself, having come from an abusive father, but having had no contact with my children or myself for many months before this.
I have no prior mental or criminal history of any sort, have been a devoted father to my girls since birth, have been cleared by cps after their saying the investigation was unwarranted, but my daughter, who's now both mentally and physically looking worse than ever, is refusing to come home, still accusing me, I believe, for having dug herself a hole she can't get out of.
I am heartbroken, beyond lost, and frustrated in what to do. I found out she hasn't been back to school since, and when I saw her briefly, looks and sounds like hell...My 10yr old daughter and I, in our finally peaceful house, are getting on fine but are missing her so much. Living hell. Any thoughts or comments are welcome. I am at a total loss.

December, 6 2014 at 8:15 pm

My daughter was hospitalized for 24 days. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and other things. Life for her is hard a lot of days and all she wants is to be normal. And I am having a hard time trying to cope and understand because my husband can't or won't see that she does have problems and thinks and implies that there is nothing wrong but I know there is sometimes I look into her eyes and she isn't in there and other times she is. This story really helped me and I thank everyone for sharing.

December, 6 2014 at 8:39 am

My youngest daughter has been hospitalized several times during her teen years for suicidal ideation and cutting. Her last hospitalization was January/Feb. this years where she had to be hospitalized 4 times. But not she has been put on new medication and it has been like night and day. She is positive, her anger has been lessened (she was punching and kicking holes in the walls), she is working. I don't think I ever believed we would get to this point because of all the other medication she had been on didn't seem to get any results. And it is a lot of pain and guilt seeing your child suffer and you seem helpless to aid them. I hope your son is doing better. Remember there is really only so much you can do as a parent, but love, support and fight for their recovery. I pray you and your family are well and at peace with what is going on.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Christina Halli
December, 6 2014 at 3:27 pm

Hi Faye, thank you for your comment.It sounds like you have been through a lot with your daughter. I agree with you, it is heartbreaking to watch a child suffer. As parents, we can only guide them and support them. I'm glad to hear your daughter is finding some relief right now.

December, 4 2014 at 4:18 pm

Hello, I am Coral. I was admitted to a psychological hospital when I was 15. I was seriously depressed and diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder. But what could you have expected, my brother did drugs, my stepfather, and mom did drugs as well as my mother dealing with alcohol. My father did not take his medicine right and became highly dependent on Lortabs. I was molested twice, watched my house burn in an accidental fire and lost my mother to suicide and my stepfather (one of my molesters) overdosed on heroine.
The hospital was deadly. I was admitted quite quickly to find out they didn't have a bed. So I sat in a waiting room type of deal with patients like me. It wasn't until 12:00 that they found a bed in a different hospital 2 hours away from where I lived. So there I was, getting sigNed in and registered. Then it took a couple hours for my to answer their questions. Finally at 6 o clock in the morning, when everyone was waking up, I went to bed as I got there extremely early. The food was horrid and the day dragged on and on. Wake up, do hygiene,eat breakfast, go to "class" which was reading on a third grade level, group therapy where we watched videos made that were made in the 90s, snack time, "class" again where we played with play-dough, lunch, process group therapy where we got in lots of fights and many people had to step out due to memories, "class" where we watched a movie, active therapy where we went outside for 20 minutes, shower, dinner, then free time after that. Lights out at nine. Phone calls, once a day, 10 minutes, before bedtime. It was prison.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Christina Halli
December, 5 2014 at 2:09 am

Coral, thank you for sharing your experience. As a parent, I appreciate hearing your perspective. It sounds like you had a lot of trauma in your life. That is extremely difficult for any child to deal with.

Lisa Keith
December, 1 2014 at 5:16 pm

My daughter also requested to go into inpatient at age 16. Unfortunately, the nearest adolescent facility was 200 miles away. She was there for a week and we spoke on the phone. It seemed to be a clean and positive facility. They were able to adjust her meds and closely supervise her. But not being able to see her during that week was horrible. They took her by ambulance and when she was released, I had to figure out how to get there to pick her up and bring her home.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Christina Halli
December, 2 2014 at 2:19 am

Hi Lisa,
Thank you for sharing your experience. Its sounds terrible not to be able to see your sick child in the hospital for a week. I think any parent would struggle in that situation. It took amazing strength and courage for you to get your child the help she needed at the time.

Gill Hodgson
December, 1 2014 at 2:39 pm

My now 15 year old son has been battling severe depression and low self esteem. He's has a personality disorder. And so very angry and hurts himself. He also hear and sees things. He's adimate he has the devil inside him. He's very religious and fears of going in to a church because he will be taking evil in with him too. The support has been very little. I pray everyday that he will be with me but the end of the day. He's Tried a couple of times in the past to take his life. It breaks my heart to see my baby suffering so much. Not sure what to do anymore to be honest .

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Christina Halli
December, 2 2014 at 2:17 am

Hi Gill,
It sounds like you are in a lot of pain because you do not know how to help your child who is struggling with mental illness. This is common for many of us. It is so hard. I wonder if you can find support or respite for yourself when it becomes too much.

December, 1 2014 at 1:59 pm

Wow, we all follow such a similar path. We admitted my son at age 22, when he finally told us he just couldn't think.was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The only people that even come close to relating are those who have walked the same road. In time, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins have accepted the different young man. The mixture of emotions as we left him at the hospital will never be forgotten.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Christina Halli
December, 1 2014 at 2:03 pm

Hi Donna,
Thanks for your comment. Yes, we all have similar experiences, don't we? The emotions we feel as parents hospitalizing our mentally ill children are intense and need to be processed in a healthy way. I think sharing our stories and feelings helps.

December, 1 2014 at 11:20 am

I've been hospitalized 3 times for suicidal ideation and they really did nothing. I was there for 2 days, 5 days and then 2 nights and they just turn you over. The facilities and procedures aren't in place in most areas. The place in my home town only has 2 rooms. I knew of someone who went in more than 3 times in a period of a few months because she'd go home and attempt again and they did nothing for her. She was actually turned away and no one knew what to do because she was a danger to be left alone. In a city where I have seen an increasing number of teen suicides, it's clear that not all is being done that should be.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Christina Halli
December, 1 2014 at 2:05 pm

Hi Jade,
Thanks for sharing your experience. I agree we as a society have a long way to go to help our teenagers struggling with mental illness and suicidal thoughts. I am hopeful that sharing my experience will help others.

December, 1 2014 at 5:32 am

I was admitted at 14, (over 30 yrs ago...Whoa!), and what I got mainly was judgment from everyone, from my parents, (their abuse was the cause and trigger), friends of my parents, clergy, pediatrician etc. My parents got more empathy than I did and their behaviors triggered my illness. It is always great to see parents who are involved and care, that neighbors did too is almost unbelievable but great. I wish the best for your son and family. I am still fighting 60+ hospitalizations and 33 yrs later. I hope hs battle gets easier.

December, 1 2014 at 4:31 am

My daughter is 16 and has tried to commit suicide twice (overdosing on her own mediation) She was in a rehab for 3 weeks.
She was asked to leave the house of her stepdads at the age of 14 due to her bad behaviour and the affect is was having on our little daughter. She hold me totally responsible for this and of course being a mom how could you not. She went to live with her dad and he had to leave town due to getting a job out of town. She wanted to go to boarding school. She is home schooled at this boarding school and her moods change often, one day happy next she wants to kill herself, swears at me over the phone. She under a psychiatrist and is on meds but she makes me cry al the time. Manipulates me and black mails me.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Christina Halli
December, 1 2014 at 2:13 pm

Hi Sharon,
It sounds like your daughter has been extremely unwell. I'm glad to hear she has a psychiatrist helping her with treatment. I hear you saying her behavioral symptoms have affected your whole family. This is normal. Mental illness does affect the whole family and it can be horribly stressful. I hope you can do something for yourself to nurture your own feelings and emotions when you feel like parenting your daughter is wearing you down.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

November, 6 2018 at 4:10 pm

Honestly love, if she starts cursing at you on the phone hang up. And if she calls back either ignore or answer. If you ignore then let her cool down. If you answer tell her she has no right to disrespect you and that you are responsible for her and that she has to respect you no matter how she feels. And then if that doesn't work hang up the phone and call her psych doc and see his/her opinion about the situation and what you should do. Or you can talk to a therapist or a neurologist about somethings you're worried about. Your daughter obviously just needs you to be there for her so do that and get her as much help as she needs. Try not to be negative about the situation try to make her feel like you're trying. But everyone has a view in how you should handle your child the only person that can determine that is yourself.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

November, 9 2018 at 2:21 pm

PLEASE* you're welcome Sharon! Good luck with your daughter!

November, 23 2014 at 3:35 pm

I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital at the age of 12, and then dozens of times as an adult.
There were never balloons. Neighbors, friends, co-workers...none of these people ever helped my mom. They knew what was going on, but never offered anything but an expression of pity and a side of judgment.
I think if there had ever been balloons, if my release were treated as positive, shame would not have developed. Or, maybe there would have been a more healthy dialogue between my parents and I.
Thank you for putting out balloons. Thank you for treating your son like a deserving human.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 1 2018 at 11:18 am

THumbs up to balloons. Your reply was so very nice. It’s not easy. To admit our kids may be sick and as it seems most teens are independent ours need more love.

Dawn Singer
November, 23 2014 at 10:11 am

My daughter was hospitalized for a month not too long ago and finally diagnosed with bipolar among other things. The extent of her distress I didn't even realize until she was admitted and your blog brought back all the memories of visiting her and thinking that my daughter was a zombie and would we ever have our daughter back. I pray that the dialogue about mental illness will continue to happen. It's sad but my husband is still embarrassed to say that his daughter has a mental illness because he is afraid of what people might say in their ignorance. My prayers for you and your family. Keep sharing, it is helping.

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