What It’s Like Inside a Teen Psychiatric Ward for Teen Mental Health Treatment

In a recent article published by U.S. News, more than four million children and teens have a mental illness. Sadly, a study by University of California, San Francisco revealed that hospitalizations for teen mental health treatment increased for teens by 24% between 2007 and 2010. The results of the study indicated that one out of 10 hospitalizations for teens and children are due to a psychological illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or psychosis.

Typically, when teens and children are hospitalized for teen mental health treatment 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.

A teen’s stay at the hospital, which can last from 24 hours to a month or longer, will likely include psychotropic medication, assessments, individual or group therapy, support groups, and family therapy. Teens who are hospitalized for the long-term may attend school for a few hours a day. Psychiatric treatment, however, is the main focus of a teen’s stay, and typically time spent at a psychiatric hospital is meant to be brief.

Ideally, psychiatrists at the hospital are communicating with an adolescent’s parents, primary care physician, and mental health professionals who have also provided care. It can be very challenging for a teen to be admitted to the hospital and provided a prescription for an anti-depressant, for example, that is different than the one he or she normally uses. When there is lack of communication among treatment professionals, hospitals can sometimes prescribe different medication at a different dosage, which can make the experience for the teen uncomfortable and even upsetting.  Fortunately, cross-communication among community agencies, including hospitals and mental health professionals are getting better for this reason.

Hospitalization for an adolescent is frequently an unpleasant experience. However, it is a place that provides the kind of intense care that is necessary for psychiatric stability. Of course, most parents do not want their children to be a part of the statistics on teen mental health treatment. Parents can avoid trips to hospital by watching for warning signs such as self-harming activities, drop in grades, or social withdrawal.

Related Articles

How to Help Your Teen Cope At A Psychiatric Hospital