Yesterday, we announced a new report called The Patient Voice for Inpatient Therapy, which highlights patients’ top tips for having a positive inpatient therapy experience. Maureen Oakes, community manager for PatientsLikeMe Mood Conditions Community (for people with depression and other mood conditions), recently interviewed 3-star member, Mountabora, about her experiences with hospitalization. Here’s what she had to say:
|(Maureen) You note in your member profile that you have been hospitalized a few times. What were those experiences like?|
|(Mountabora) Being in a psychiatric hospital is kind of like being at summer camp. You’re away from home, living in close quarters with strange people, and participating in structured group activities which may or may not have a purpose. There are a lot of rules, and you lose privileges if you don’t follow them. You have to get up way too early in the morning and eat three meals a day at the cafeteria.
There’s a lot of emphasis on learning coping skills, typically through classes and worksheets. There’s also a lot of emphasis on medication; most patients are on at least two or three psychoactive drugs. You go to therapy and you see a psychiatrist, but much more often than you would if you weren’t hospitalized. It’s basically a condensed version of what you’d get as an outpatient, in a controlled environment.
I’ve been treated at six different hospitals in four states over the last ten years, and I’ve had both wonderful and horrible experiences. The state hospital I went to was more like a prison than a hospital. Patients were restrained and drugged against their will, the nursing staff obviously didn’t care, and I had to wait days to see a psychiatrist and then threaten to take them to court before they’d discharge me. The private psychiatric hospitals were much better, with specially trained art, exercise, and family therapists, productive classes and groups, and lots of one-on-one time with nurses, therapists, and psychiatrists. Unfortunately, this seems to be a situation where you really do get what you pay for.
|(Maureen) If you could tell other patients one thing about having a positive inpatient therapy (or hospitalization) experience, what would it be?|
|(Mountabora) Hospitalization is very expensive, so treat it like you would any major purchase. Discuss options with your psychiatrist and have a clear idea of why you’re going in and what you’re expecting to get out of it. Once you’re there, take full advantage of the services the hospital offers. Learn as much as you can from both staff and fellow patients, participate fully in groups and individual therapy, and make the most of the (hopefully) peaceful and structured atmosphere.
I also would recommend that anyone with a serious mental illness take some time to learn about patients’ rights in their state or country. You never know when you’ll be put into a situation where you have to advocate for yourself.
|(Maureen) In a our new report, The Patient Voice on Inpatient Therapy, we summarize top themes cited by our community members regarding their positive inpatient therapy experiences. Do you have anything to add regarding these themes?|
|(Mountabora) I really wish hospitals would put more emphasis on coordination of care right from the start. Almost every time I’ve been hospitalized, I’ve been thrown in with an unfamiliar psychiatrist who gives me a new diagnosis and a completely different set of medications. It took a lot of painful trial and error for my psychiatrist to come up with this diagnosis and treatment plan, and I’d really rather not have to go through it all over again every time I go in to the hospital.|
|(Maureen) You’ve been a very active member of the PatientsLikeMe community for a while now. What do you find helpful about using the site?|
|(Mountabora) I like being able to keep a centralized record of my mood and treatment history that I can use as a reference or share with treatment providers. Theoretically, this information gets transferred from provider to provider, but in reality, I know that a lot of things have fallen through the cracks over the years and my quality of care depends on me being able to give an accurate account of what’s happened so far. I wish I had started this when I was first diagnosed. Maybe I wouldn’t have been hospitalized so much.|
|(Maureen) Thank you for sharing your story and experiences with our PatientsLikeMe community, and with the mood conditions community at-large!|