The question of when a voluntary admission to hospital is advisable is a not always the same as the question of how to keep safe during periods of suicidal thinking.
Admission to hospital for suicidal thinking is a last resort and often treating people in the community can be better for them . I know it doesn’t always seem like it when you are in crisis but psychiatric wards are often not “restful” places and people in acute distress often need rest and calm as well as safety. So if the person can be safe in a community setting, it may actually serve them better to be there . This is an often tough assessment made by the doctors , nurses , psychologists involved.
My understanding is that the topic is also a bit divided into two quite different areas - the public and the private system.
So, in the public mental health system, I gather that most admissions are in fact involuntary for quite difficult conditions that need weeks of care to get someone stable for discharge to the community. This may be someone who is experiencing psychosis as a result of their schizophrenia or bipolar disorder for example.
Involuntary admissions into these wards are usually much briefer (a few days rather than a few weeks) and for things that are more situational rather than intrinsic. Meaning , the person is admitted while they and the staff work to set up systems outside the hospital to support that person in the community.
This doesn’t mean that the staff working on these wards care more for the involuntary patients, but they are aware that although inpatient psychiatric care in a public hospital has its role in the overall mental health system, it will certainly not be of value for everyone and may in fact be counterproductive for some ( due to its stressful atmosphere).
I have seen forum posts where people have wondered why they haven’t been admitted to a ward if they have presented to an Emergency Department and told the doctor of their suicidal feelings. I believe that staff take these revelations very seriously and I always encourage you to tell your doctor whether it is the GP or the ED doctor what you are thinking.
However, often they will work to set up COMMUNITY rather that INPATIENT supports for you as they feel that a ward environment will not in the long term be the best place for you. Let them work with you and your community/ supports to work that out.
Just quickly, the private system is a bit different. If you have private health cover, you can be admitted under your private psychiatrist voluntarily into a ward and many more people in these wards are in fact voluntary . This just means the environment on the ward is a little less stressful and thus if given the choice , many would go for this option.
If you do feel this would be a good idea for you, the best idea would be to discuss the pros and cons with your GP or psychiatrist and check with your Health fund what the out of pocket expenses would be.