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Forums / Treatments, health professionals and therapies / What's it like on a psych ward?

Topic: What's it like on a psych ward?

  1. Just Sara
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    26 June 2020

    Hi all;

    This topic often comes up so I thought I'd create a thread to inform, and discuss concerns of people scared to ask for help from a hospital.

    I've worked as a mental health peer worker since mid last year so I totally understand the stigma around being admitted. I spent two weeks on a ward a few years ago so my post is from lived experience as well.

    Depending on your circumstances, being admitted voluntarily or involuntarily isn't really any different except if you're violent or are at risk of self-harming. In these instances patients are sent to a ward where they can be monitored more closely than on other wards.

    Think of the MH system as a scale from 1 to 3; at each level you're being assessed to move to the next level of care with less monitoring and more independence, eg. wards can be closed or open depending on whether the patient is a risk to themselves or others and has proven themselves to be actively participating in their own recovery.

    Assessments are carried out by a psychiatrist assigned to the patient on admission or the next available time permitted as they are extremely busy or it's in the middle of the night.

    Nursing staff take daily, and sometimes hourly notes to support the assessment process. They follow the Dr's treatment plan which includes medication both regularly administered and PRN for crisis situations when people need something extra to help them cope.

    In my own case I was prescribed a daily anti-depressant with PRN anti-anxiety as a back-up which I only requested when I couldn't sleep or was distressed. People with more severe symptoms are treated with medication in alignment with their particular diagnosis and responses.

    Sometimes it takes a while to test what the best medication is, so letting staff know how you feel with any new drug is really important. Their notes are a direct link to your psychiatrist and are discussed every morning in a combined clinical meeting to identify the best avenue of treatment and ward movements for each patient.

    As you can imagine, patients at each stage of the scale will differ in how they act, respond and engage with others. Focusing on yourself and recovery is the best way to approach your stay.

    Hope this helps. Looking forward to comments from members.

    Kind thoughts;

    Sez

    2 people found this helpful
  2. Sleepy21
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    26 June 2020

    Hi Sara. Thank you for starting this thread. I've tried to find something similar on the forum.
    I was wandering if we could maybe expand the topic to cover all hospital services for mental health? I have not been admitted to a psych ward, but have accessed suicide prevention assistance from the public hospital as an outpatient. Eg the CATT team can offer crises support either through visits to your home or phone calls when people are at their lowest. I think it's interesting that there are degrees of support on offer, which may or may not lead to going as an inpatient - but you do have a lot of choice and agency.

    I was pretty sccared about contacting the hospital. I didn't want to become passive and have no power or choice. I also didn't want to take medication.

    The staff respected this and I was able to access support on my terms. It's good that people can have experiences at hospital that empower rather than disempower. I'm glad I got to go.

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  3. Just Sara
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    26 June 2020 in reply to Sleepy21

    Many thanks Sleepy; great information for readers!

    (Just for those who don't know what CATT means, it's the Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team)

    I think your idea to include all mental health services attached to hospitals on this thread is a positive one. The more we share our knowledge and experience, the more others will benefit.

    I was wondering if you could expand on how you knew to contact them, what the process was and if you're in a major city or a regional/isolated area. It'd be a valuable addition to the 'gold' you've already contributed. Suicide prevention is a worthy topic, but please only include what happened in regards to using the service as I'd like to avoid triggering people. :-)

    I'm so glad your experience had a positive outcome and posting it here is very much appreciated, I can assure you. Sharing generic information is really important, but lived experience is as valuable as it comes.

    For people reading who've had uncomfortable stays on a MH ward or with outpatient services, I urge you to post as well. Someone may have answers or questions as a result.

    Sez

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  4. Sleepy21
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    26 June 2020

    Hey Sara,

    Thanks for the reminder. This forum is a safe place as all posts are checked before being published and we are advised not to use specific language that is triggering. I'd rather not share much more about it at the moment, if that's okay. Thanks for the post.

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  5. Just Sara
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    26 June 2020 in reply to Sleepy21

    That's perfectly fine Sleepy, no worries at all.

    Have a great day!

  6. Autumn.
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    26 June 2020 in reply to Just Sara

    Hi Sez,

    A bit of a different angle but I hope you don’t mind.

    In your experience, is there much opportunity for people without qualifications to work in this setting? You said you work in mental health so I presume you mean at a psychiatric ward.

    I’m a psychology student so I would love to get a head start in this field (particularly at a psychiatric ward).

    Autumn

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  7. Matchy69
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    26 June 2020

    Hi thanks for this post and your comments from working on a ward.

    My epereince is of being a patient on several occasions all being in the public health sysyem.The best things i found were the doctor who i saw daily and prescribed my medication and monitored me on the new medication.It was a good place to be away the things that were triggering me and effecting me like having my phone locked away so i couldnt read any nasty msgs that were constant for me.I found the other patients great and very supportive and we use to cry to each other hug each other and open up to each other.The thing that i found from my experience less supportive were the nurses.We use to have a nurse assigned to about 4 of us for the day.Apart from giving us our medication which would often be late and some times had to remind them and checking your obs in the morning,i found they didnt want to know you and some rude to me.

    Thats just some of my experiences in a psych ward and sure their is so many different stories good and bad.

    Take care,

    Mark.

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  8. Sleepy21
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    26 June 2020
    Hi Mark, I agree with you, when I was inpatient the comradarie between the people was beautiful. hugs and reassurance and understanding like i'd never found before. I was not expecting that element of the hopsital, but it gave me a lot of hope. Thanks for your comments!
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  9. DrRotten
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    27 June 2020 in reply to Just Sara
    Thank you for posting this, Sez.

    May I ask what "PRN" means?
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  10. blondguy
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    27 June 2020 in reply to DrRotten
    Hey DrRotten (wave to Sez)

    PRN means 'as the occasion arises; as needed.'

    Hope you are doing okay DrR

    Great 👍 and super helpful thread topic Sez...good1

    Paul
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  11. Just Sara
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    27 June 2020 in reply to Matchy69

    Hi Mark; (waves to Sleepy for your post too)

    Thankyou so much for your input. Your experience with other patients is common due to everyone feeling a little isolated, so bonding does occur. Not having outside influences (like mobiles) is an important aspect of the recovery and assessment process, but many struggle to come to terms with it. I'm glad you appreciated that time out though.

    I'm sorry nursing staff weren't supportive. At our hospital the nursing unit manager's are sticklers for genuinely connecting with patients on the ward to instil faith and trust. That time increased after Covid-19 was introduced to quell some of the fear, especially re conspiracy theories.

    Seeing your Dr everyday is pretty amazing! Go you! This obviously made up for the lack of interest from nurses. Thankyou again for your stories...

    Big thankyou to Paul for providing info on PRN med's and sending well wishes. We're a complementary community aren't we? :-)

    Hi Dr Rotten;

    It was your posts that influenced me to create this thread in the first place. Many people have reservations about being admitted so I hope our posts are helpful for making a decision on your own behalf. Please ask as many questions as you like ok. We'll be more than happy to provide answers and support for your journey.

    Hi Autumn;

    Kudos on your study choice! I'm not quite sure how I can help you on this thread, but if you start one I'd be happy to engage. If you read through posts on here I'm positive you'll find valuable info to satisfy your interest.

    Psychologists do have a role to play on psychiatric wards, but not as much as they should. (IMO) Dr's are mainly concerned with brain illnesses of a chemical nature so addressing psychological disorders aren't high on their list which is a shame.

    Take care everyone;

    Sez

    1 person found this helpful
  12. DrRotten
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    27 June 2020 in reply to Just Sara

    Thanks for your helpful and informative post, Sez.

    What about entering and exiting?

    Does one truly just simply present to the emergency department and say "Hello, I am planning self-harm?" like one might say "I broke my leg in an accident"? Do you have to talk lots in front of all sorts of people?

    And when you are in, if you decide you're ok and would rather be back at home can you say "Thank you, I would like to leave now?"

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  13. Matchy69
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    27 June 2020 in reply to DrRotten
    Hi that' a great question.From my experience I have presented myself to emergency saying what you said and they would bring me in with no waiting and they would bring down a psych from the ward who would talk to me and access me.I did not speak to anyone else apart from a nurse.On that occasion I was admitted to the ward for a few days.I have known other people who have been able to go home after talking to the psych with plans put in place.On other occasions I have been taken to hospital by ambulance and it was the same process.
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  14. Sleepy21
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    27 June 2020

    Hey I have never presented to the hospital before. A psychiatrist when I was strugglign told me if it got so bad I could just present at the ED at my local hospital (he was a terrible pyschiatrist, he even told me the wrong local hospital.... you have to go to one where you are in their catchment area...)

    I would never have done that. I didn't even know the logistics, how to get there, and was scared of what would happen there.

    I ccalled Beyond Blue when I was suicidal and they have the ability to put yu through to the pyschiatrist support team at your local hospital. They took it from there. I spoke to a nurse about my options for about an hour. i decided not to come in. I was offered extra support over the phone, and later decided to stay in a recovery centre run by the hospital, which was less clinical than the psych ward. It was really relaxed and nice and we could come and go as we pleased.
    I was given the option to go to hospital, but didn't take it, and found something else I felt comfortable with.
    My interactions with the hospital was the first time I could discuss my suicide ideation safely, and it was the best thing I could've done for my mental health to liase with the hopsital psych emergency team (Triage/CATT team).

    6 people found this helpful
  15. DrRotten
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    27 June 2020 in reply to Sleepy21
    Thanks, Matchy69 and Sleepy21. Well, that actually does make me feel more comfortable with the idea.
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  16. Sleepy21
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    28 June 2020

    hi Dr Rotten, I still use the hospital support sometimes, without going in. If I"m really low and feel suicidal, I call the same line that the hospital put me through to (the psychiatric team at the hopsital - Triage/CATT team). The hopsital also runs a free service where you can have a hot drink and talk over your problems with a social worker - i go there too! I was thinking a lot about your question,I think you posted it elsewhere, would I go again?
    I would. It is just hard to know when/if I needed it, and to fuigure that out. It's hard choosing the right service, but I do continue to keep the hopsital as a place I use in different ways for support.

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  17. Sleepy21
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    hi all, if anyone has any experiences about comradarie and friendship from a psych ward stay or attending a similar hospital service, I'd love to hear it.

    I still sometimes see people on the street who I was in the recovery centre with, and a few i keep in touch with. Some I had to cut off frombecause they were not progressing in recovery and it was triggering for me while I was still vulnerable. I think making friendships in such places can sometimes be tricky. Did anyone make friends in a hospital or hospital-like setting?
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  18. Matchy69
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    2 July 2020 in reply to Sleepy21
    Hi sleepy I made a really good friend last time I was in hospital.I use to see her all the time when we were out of hospital and we text each other everyday and would do heaps of things together.Unfortunately I lost her friendship from my depression and anxiety.Was my fault. always manage to stuff up friendships all the time.I miss her like crazy.
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  19. Sleepy21
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    Hey Mark i'm really sorry the friendship didn't last but i hope you wll find good people soon, you're a lovely person

    I met some nice people in the hospital too, I became very close to someone there, but they had addiction problems and were still very new to recovery - it was too much for me as I was recovering very intensely myself. Some of the others we keep in touch from time to time. There can be some fun bonding there at hospital, but it can be difficult on the outside. Don't be too hard on yourself, i hope you know she also lost out from having you as a friend, and you can find others

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  20. Sleepy21
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    2 July 2020

    lost out from not having your friendship *

    it is hard to balance the friendships from the ward/hospital

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  21. Sleepy21
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    another thing i noticed was that in my life i seemed to mostly connect to women as good friends. The women in the recovery centre I found actually quite difficult to connect with. The men were very down to earth and open and helpful. I think sometimes you connect to people you don't expect, and age or gender isn't really a barrier there.
    I think there are few places on earth like that - where all that really matters is if you are a nice person. My friends there were from lots of different backgronds, ages, situations etc, but I could relate to all in a different way. We were all struggling and had that in common
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  22. Sleepy21
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    Just to follow up on this thread -

    Does anyone have any thoughts re private vs public hospital systems?

    A few years ago after a suicide attempt I was connected to the public hospital, and the service was really lacking. I had visitors come to my house once or twice from the hospital, and they were not very good. That was it.

    Last year I had engagement with the public hospital and their services went above and beyond this - they offered daily calls, assigned me a social worker to work with me, and gave me the option to stay for a few months in a recovery centre. Times have changed, maybe, and the system has improved? I'm wandering if things were much worse years ago, and if slowly, slowly, the system is offering better options for mental health in the public system

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  23. Just Sara
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    14 July 2020 in reply to Sleepy21

    Hey Sleepy;

    I'm not sure if your 1st or 2nd paragraph actually refers to the private/public health system as you've used 'public' for both.

    In any case, I agree with the points you've made re follow-up as it's a very important aspect of discharge and recovery. Social workers and other service providers are thankfully active in supporting people as well.

    This is where I feel Peer Workers can be highly effective for post ward periods. Coming home from a controlled environment can be difficult for some; it was for me. If I'd had that type of support I would've adapted so much better than I did.

    Living alone has its positives, but isolation when in need of company can be frightening.

  24. Matchy69
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    14 July 2020 in reply to Sleepy21

    Hi Sleepy I will just give a quick reply to your public and private care. I have only used public and before I was able to be released from hospital I had to make an appointment with a private psychologist and they would continue to see me at the hospital with a case worker for a few weeks after. I have spoken to people who have been in both public and private and they say the private is much better. The hospital is a much nicer environment and not as cold and dull like public. Much more one on one therapy in private.

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  25. Sleepy21
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    14 July 2020 in reply to Just Sara
    Hi sara - thanks i'm intentionally using public for both, they were different stays in different times and i was discussing wether the public system had changed or improved over time.

    In terms of private, I have no experience there but would be interested to know what people feel about private hospitals for mental health, and also if they have seen any improvements in the public system, which I have (as indicated by 1st and 2nd paragraph - different stays, but much higher quality care a few years later, in the public system.)
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  26. Sleepy21
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    14 July 2020 in reply to Just Sara
    hi Sara also if my statments aren't clear i totally understand and appreciate you asking however in this case it was just a confusion over me not signposting properly ie - mentioning one thing initially and then going on to talk about something else. I hope the message was clear anyway, I'm trying my best and welcome any responses even if not exactly in line with what I wrote. I try my best to be clear so if its a general response I'd prefer that rather than getting to into what words I've chosen. Thanks again
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  27. Sleepy21
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    14 July 2020 in reply to Matchy69

    hi Mark thanks for telling me about your public stays and what you noticed differently from your friends comments about private stays. That is very helpful. I've also heard that public hospital can be very jarring, with poor food choices etc (my friends said that they got the exact same meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.)

    another friend said it was a little confronting as you were exposed to some things there - if the other residents eg were still taking drugs etc he witnessed some of that on the ward.

    I can understand for some people it would be conronting staying in a public psych ward. I stayed in Prevention and Recovery Care which is run by public system but is quite a bit better - because they vet people who attend. They do a background check on each person before entering, so no one has a history of violence, and I felt safe there.

    Thanks again your story is helpful!

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  28. Matchy69
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    14 July 2020 in reply to Sleepy21

    Hi Sleepy your right about the food in the public system they would bring the food trolley in and you would just grab a tray off it and got what you got. They kept loaves of bread in the fridge and jam and ate that during the day while it lasted. Their was one person who had a special diet who's food was kept desperate.

    Some of the patients were a bit iffy and could be scary and we did have a couple of inmates from prison in prison uniform come in for treatment which was a bit scary.

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  29. Sleepy21
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    Hi Mark that doesn't sound very delicious at all! sounds hectic trying to get food and no choice at all.
    For a lot of the time I ate bread and cheese so I can imagine very well getting bread from the fridge!

    in the recovery centre they had very basic food, no juice or sweets, basic meals. i thought it was becaue they didn't want us to eat sugar, but they told me the concept was learning to make simple meals on very limited budget. Ie - you may not be able to afford juice or treats once you leave hospital, so you can still be okay drinking water or milk (always long life milk, never fresh!). We ate mostly frozen pizzas or hash browns for dinner.

    The food wasn't good, but was good enough!

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  30. Just Sara
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    17 July 2020 in reply to Sleepy21

    Hi Sleepy;

    I'm sorry my post came across a bit course; it wasn't meant to be that way. I should've put a smiley face or something to make small of what I said after my sentence. Thank you for explaining things even though it was my error in how I read your post.

    Your contribution to this thread has been great! I'm sure those who're apprehensive about being on a psychiatric ward will benefit. Thankyou...

    Take care;

    Sez

    1 person found this helpful

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