Psychiatric hospitals provide the highest level of treatment available to teens and are intended for the short-term stabilization of serious mental health issues. A hospital setting can help a teen in crisis by providing a locked environment with constant clinical supervision to ensure their safety.
When is a Psychiatric Hospital Needed?
Similar to a hospital for physical problems, a psychiatric hospital is set up to deal with mood or behavioral changes that come on suddenly and require intense structure and intervention to keep the teen safe.
Situations in which a teen might require hospitalization include a suicide attempt, threatening someone with a weapon, hallucinations, uncontrollable physical rage or manic episodes. Teens will receive the best care in a hospital that specializes in treating this age group- ask if the hospital has an adolescent unit.
Psychiatric Hospitals Explained
The two most important things to know about psychiatric hospitals are:
1. The treatment is fast-paced and intense.
2. The length of stay will be very short, usually several days.
Hospitals for mental health issues are intended to thoroughly evaluate the crisis, act quickly to stabilize the teen and develop a plan for continued care.
A comprehensive evaluation begins at the time of admission and is completed by interviewing the teen, family members and mental health or school professionals who have worked with the teen and can provide relevant information. This assessment considers the prior history of problems in mood or behavior, use of drugs or alcohol, previous treatment, physical illness or symptoms, family history of mental illness etc.
Hospitals use a treatment team approach with an extensive staff of professionally trained personnel to include psychiatrists, psychologists, chemical dependency counselors, therapists, social workers, nurses, activity therapists, teachers and more. Professionals from each discipline evaluate the teen and make recommendations for treatment both in the hospital and after discharge.
While in the hospital teens participate in numerous daily structured activities to include:
- Psychological testing
- Individual therapy with a psychiatrist or psychologist
- Group therapy with other hospitalized teens
- Academic programs to help keep up with school
- Occupational, recreational and art therapies
- Family therapy focused on immediate concerns and next steps
- Multi-family groups - many hospitals suggest families continue in these groups as part of aftercare
Discharge planning refers to specific plans made for the aftercare or follow-up treatment the teen will participate in upon leaving the hospital. Depending on how well the teen responds to treatment in the hospital, programs such as a RTC or day treatment are usually recommended. If medication and efforts at stabilization create significant changes then a lower level of care such as an alternative school or intensive outpatient therapy may be appropriate.
Once the reasons for the crisis are identified and a teen is considered stable by the treating psychiatrist and hospital staff, the case manager assigned to work with your teen will determine the best course of action for continued treatment based on recommendations from staff and will work out the details as quickly as possible.
Parents are encouraged to start working with the case manager, usually a social worker, as soon as possible to maximize what the hospital has to offer in identifying appropriate treatment resources and putting the plan into place.
Preliminary plans for discharge start immediately upon a teens’ admission and most parents will feel rushed and prefer their teen stay longer at the hospital. This is the reality of psychiatric hospitals, they are expensive to operate and are intended to assess the teen, stabilize the crisis and provide expertise in helping transition the teen into a program that can provide more in-depth treatment after the immediate crisis has passed.