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What Really Goes on Inside a Modern Mental Institution

Ashworth Hospital

Ashworth Hospital

Is everyone in there crazy?

No. In fact the majority of people struggle from severe disorders such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts/actions. Most hospitals have a separate unit for people dealing with extreme psychosis and schizophrenia, but even this is over-dramatized in pop culture. These units are a bit less serial killer and a bit more human palm tree (don't ask).

What's the lodging situation?

Most units have two wooden twin beds, two wooden shelving units, and one bathroom per room. There can be anywhere from 4-15 rooms per unit. There is also a dayroom that often has tables, couches, books, and sometimes a TV. This is where the nurses station is, and this room is accessible to patients at any hour of the day. (If a patient wanders in at midnight, they may be asked to return to their bed but patients are never locked in their rooms. Most units travel to a cafeteria for all meals and visitation. Items like pillows, books, journals, and markers are almost always allowed to be brought in by the patient's family (with a few exceptions).

Hospital rooms often look a lot like college dorms

Hospital rooms often look a lot like college dorms

How long do people stay there?

That depends. At a typical hospital most patients stay between three days, to two weeks. After that they may be transferred to a residential center where they can potentially stay several years. However, in recent times these stays are being cut shorter and patients are being unsafely released in order to make room for more. At times, there can be no available beds anywhere in the state (this is an even bigger problem in youth units).

Are kids there?

Most hospitals have at least one adolescent/teen unit that works with ages 12-17. Actual children's units (3-11), are few and far between in most parts of the country. In facilities that have teens, the adolescents are always kept separate from the adults. They are never in the same room, and almost never pass each other in the hallways. This is done for the protection and healing of both groups.

What are your rights there?

Not a lot. You have the right to refuse medicine, activities, and therapy. Beyond that you are basically bound to the rules of the facility. Of course hospitals are also required to provide you with all hygiene necessities, accommodate dietary restrictions, and provide visiting hours. What counts as "necessities" can be subjective at times though. Certain hospitals will force a patient to wear scrubs instead of their own clothes as a form of punishment for discouraged behavior, or provide extra food for favored patients. Outdoor time can also be withheld, as can the privilege to attend therapy sessions. Visitation can not be taken away completely (for minors), but can be terminated at any time by the staff.

Do they work?

They can. Many people have had a lot of success after leaving hospitalized care, but it really depends on where you are and how you react to their methods. Some facilities rely almost completely on pills, and will make sure you leave with a handful of prescriptions. Others will take you off of any treatment plan you were currently on and "forget" to start something new. Everything depends on your exact experience and the other patients that were there with you (friends can make or break your recovery).

© 2018 Lillian Delta