1. xdannigirl
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    xdannigirl Member

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    day to day life in a psychiatric ward?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by xdannigirl, Jul 8, 2013.

    My main character spends time in a North American psychiatric ward...the problem is, I have no idea what the daily life is like in a place like that.

    Would you mind helping me out? Tell me what happens in a psychiatric ward day-to-day. What, if anything, are patients allowed to bring from home (stuffed animals, clothes, a blanket, nothing?), what are patients to wear, what is the schedule like, what are the rooms like, do people share rooms, that kind of thing. Anything and everything you can tell me will help, because my knowledge is literally non-existent and I don't know anyone who has been in a psychiatric ward.

    Please, whether you have worked in one or have been in one or even just knew someone in one, I want to hear anything you're willing to tell me!

    Thank you so much!
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    First off, bear in mind that each hospital will be different, and even within hospitals, different wards will have different rules. So as you get details from people, you can basically pick and choose which ones to incorporate into your story - just make them consistent. That said, this was my experience at a hospital in Minnesota:

    There were only a few types of things people were not allowed to bring with them - weapons, of course, alcohol, and medications. Medications were administered by hospital staff only, including aspirin. Otherwise, it was mainly dependent on space available to each client. Nobody wore hospital-issued pajamas, contrary to so many movies and TV shows. We wore our street clothes, including shoes.

    The wards were locked at 9 PM and opened at 7 AM. Once they opened, if you weren't in the restricted ward, you could come and go as you pleased, as long as you stayed on the grounds. The restricted ward was for people just arriving (to make sure they were stable enough for the general population) and for those whose illness got out of control while there - so very temporary housing. While in the restricted ward, everything was confiscated, including cigarettes and shoes - but we still had our street clothes. Several times a day we were 'let out' into a fenced area for smoking and fresh air - there was a lighter (like in a car) at the exit and staff doled out cigarettes as we went out. It was not a pleasant place, as there was no TV, few books, and basically nothing to do.

    Anyway, on the general ward, people were two to a room. Males and females were on the same wing. You could shower any time during the open hours, but meals were served at specific times in a cafeteria. Other than assigned therapy group meetings, your day was open. There were also field trips one could sign up for - concerts or visits to area parks, etc.

    There was a "store" onsite where you could buy clothes and other items for very little money, donated by people and businesses. The staff did not handle client's money, btw. And cigarettes had to come via friends or family, so clients without resources often panhandled cigs from other clients. There was a television in the day room, but it wasn't supervised by the staff, so whoever got there first was in charge. Things got a bit heated on occasion because of that, but showing anger was a big no-no so people generally just had to back down and find something else to do.

    On campus, there was a separate building for juveniles and geriatrics, and they generally did not mix with the rest of the population, most likely for safety reasons. The security facility (where pedophiles etc were housed) was completely separate - I believe it was a couple miles from us.

    All in all, considering the reason people were there, it was a very pleasant and safe place (well, once you were out of the restricted ward). Feel free to PM me if you want more details.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first, you need to decide if your setting is a state hospital or a private one... and even then, there are still many different types and levels of care... for a sampling of the variety, you could read and see the following books and their film adaptations:

    one flew over the cuckoo's nest
    postcards from the edge
    girl, interrupted

    ...while the first is fiction, it's still quite accurate... you can google and do an amazon search for more first-hand experiences...
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    The most common myth in stories about mental hospitals is the idea people with normal behavior are locked up for long periods of time. Unless you've been convicted of a crime or you've been deemed a current threat, most people in mental hospitals in the US are there for short term treatment.

    I do consulting work for a 200 bed psych facility in WA state. All the units are locked but only a few people are there for court ordered stays and the others could leave if they asked to.

    There are 4 units, one for detox patients, one for patients under 18 and two for general patients of which one unit is for more acutely ill patients and one is for people who are there because they want to be and aren't wandering the halls hallucinating or whatnot.

    While there is free time and a day room, patients also attend a lot of structured group therapy that can be the common, group sitting in a circle run by a therapist, to activities in the art room and in the gym. Patients can go outside to smoke or just be outside with permission.

    Patients wear street clothes, a few wear hospital gowns because they didn't bring any clothes in. All their belongings are taken and searched when they come in, some stuff is stored and they keep what they brought in for their stay minus anything sharp, drugs, or liquids. They also cannot wear their own shoes until they are deemed safe to have them back.

    There's a laundry room, patients wash their own clothes, meals are at set times in the cafeteria but patients can have snacks at set times in the day room.

    And there are times a very disturbed patient is restrained and watched one to one in a separate room.

    Very few patients are there for more than a month, and many are there for just a few days to a week.

    Long term patients are typically so ill they cannot function in the outside world.

    Most stories one sees about patients in mental hospitals are more fiction than fact. The idea of the person locked up until the evil doctor lets them out would only be realistic if the setting were in the 1960s or earlier. I don't recall the exact year the law changed but state hospitals were emptied of most patients by legislation sometime in the 60s or 70s. We now have much smaller populations of involuntarily committed patients, again either because they were convicted of a crime or because they are so ill they cannot function.
     
  5. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    re: Cuckoo's nest - it was possibly accurate when it first came out, but definitely not typical now. At least not in the US.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i wouldn't bet on it...
     
  7. xdannigirlx
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    xdannigirlx New Member

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    xdannigirl here, thank you so much for your help everyone! I'm pleased to announce that most of the details I had hoped to include (but was debating on leaving out due to inaccuracy) appear to be, in fact, very accurate! :)

    If anyone else has anything to add or to agree on, feel free!
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    Just watched the movie, Side Effects. I think you should see it. Aside from the unrealistic fact the movie implied a patient cannot change psychiatrists, it had some interesting realistic angles I think you'd find very useful. The angles applied to someone hospitalized after being convicted of a crime. If you are writing a story about a person in a psych hospital, I recommend the movie.
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm. An awful lot of things in that movie are now illegal here. I think I'd recommend reading nonfiction or memoirs for research to watching a movie or reading novels.
     

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