Mental Health Facilities: A View From Inside

As you may know, I spent quite a bit of time on various units of a mental and behavioral health inpatient facility as a nursing student. I gained a different perspective of mental health than I had before, and actually considered making this my specialty area. It was most definitely an eye-opening experience that filled my heart and left me with lifelong knowledge about mental health in the U.S. Recently, my friend Bridgette* was admitted into a similar facility* and I was able to get a glimpse of what this experience is like from the inside. Let me warn you that I have nearly nothing positive to say about it, but I will give you my truthful and unbiased opinion.
Bridgette was admitted because she had suicidal thoughts and an unsuccessful attempt after abruptly stopping her medications. Medically, her main problem was that she was not taking her medications, and this hospital refused to give her the meds until she was seen by a doctor, which could be days into her stay. Mentally, her main problem was that she did not have any coping skills to deal with stress, but the hospital either taught other skills she did not need, or didn’t hold therapy sessions altogether. During my phonecalls with her, she explained how she was alone, scared, and so unhappy, only worse than when she was admitted. I even went to visit her once, and she described her experience as a prison, in which she was treated terribly by the nurses and staff, barely saw the doctor and didn’t get any of her questions answered, and got in trouble for things like not finishing her meal due to a stomachache or crying when she was feeling down. 
Being a nurse myself, I was appalled at the negligence and pure lack of concern for the patients at this so called mental “health” facility, and I had no doubt in my mind after encountering a rude nurse who was not helpful in resolving any of Bridgette or her family member’s concerns. Perhaps the worst part of it all, was that she was not allowed to leave even though she was admitted voluntarily, nor did she did have insurance; she was working full-time and going to school and paying thousands of dollars, just to be treated in a terrible way and worsening her existing condition. Eventually, upon continued insistence of her family members, she was comforted slightly by the staff, given some medications as needed, and was able to be released as early as the doctors would allow it. 
In my opinion, Bridgette would have been much better off staying at her own home. In the comfort of a home with a family she loves, with access to her necessary and required prescribed medications, and weekly sessions with an outpatient therapist who could give her one-on-one individualized attention, I am confident she would have regained stability and improved her mental health in the long-run much better than any inpatient mental health facility I know. Something has to be done about the system, and we’ve discussed it plenty during my time in nursing school, but unfortunately, it is easier said than done and all we can do for now is take small steps to advocate for the patients and hope that someday, people will be more knowledgeable about mental health and how to treat it effectively, with the love, patience, and understanding that all patients deserve.

*Name of patient and facility has been withheld to maintain privacy and HIPAA regulations

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