It’s not an easy experience to have to be hospitalized, whether it’s for a physical or a mental illness. It can be frightening for the person being hospitalized as well as his or her family members.
And there are often symptoms of traumatic stress that come with knowing that you will be staying at a hospital for a few days or a few weeks. Hospitals can trigger feelings such as uncertainty about what might happen, fear of having to go through a painful experience, fear about what others might think of them, fear of dying, and fear of being permanently labeled. These feelings can then bring on symptoms of nervousness and anxiety, including:
- Being easily upset
- Feeling anxious or nervous or stressed
- Feeling confused
- Feeling numb or empty inside
Typically, when teens and children are hospitalized for mental health concerns, their lives or the lives of others are in danger as a direct result of the psychological illness. In California, a police officer or a qualified mental health professional will deem a teen to be a danger to self (suicidal) or others (homicidal). A child or teen may likely be psychologically unstable and medical attention is needed to provide stabilization.
Hospitalization is a form of psychiatric treatment and is the most intense and the highest level of treatment there is for children, adults, and adolescents. A psychiatric hospital provides 24-hour care that is designed to meet severe changes in mood and behavior, particularly for adolescents with acute mental illnesses. Often, hospitals provide a locked environment with clinical supervision in order to provide the highest levels of safety.
It’s common for psychiatric hospitals to have two wings, one for females and one for males. Each patient has one roommate and there are several rules to ensure safety. For instance, teens cannot close the door all the way, cannot wear shoelaces, and teens with eating disorders are closely monitored while and after eating times. There are frequently specific times when all patients not under close watch are administered their medication. And in order to promote good behavior, teens are typically on a point system, which allows them more privileges as points increase. However, when a patient has either a behavioral or psychiatric outburst, he or she is separated from the group. If that teen doesn’t calm down, a sedative is provided, and if it’s refused, then a teen is held down and the sedative is injected instead.
Just reading this might ignite some tension and fear. However, here are some ways that you, your spouse, and the rest of your family can support your teenager:
Include your teen in medical discussions with the psychiatrist whenever possible. It’s important that your teen ask the questions that he or she needs to. Encourage your teen to participate in the discussion surrounding medication, symptoms, diagnoses, and treatment. This is not only important now, but it will be important in the future if the illness is a long-term experience. Your teen will need to know how to have these conversations with doctors in the future.
Talk about your feelings together. When you and your teen have the opportunity to do so, sit down with one another and talk honestly and openly about your fears, concerns, doubts, and frustrations. When your teen can feel the support of his or her family can make the burden of the experience a little lighter.
Help your teen stay connected with friends. This means that now is a great time that your teen could use the support of old friends. And it’s also a great time to make new friends as well. The more support your teen has, the better he or she might feel.
Find ways of respecting your teen’s privacy. Your teen is going to feel conscious about the way he or she looks. It’s comes with being an adolescent. Reassure your teen while being honest, and give him or her time for self-care.
These are only a few ways to support your adolescent if he or she needs to be hospitalized. Although it’s not an easy experience, you and the rest of your family can provide assistance through love, compassion, and presence.