How to Admit Yourself to a Psychiatric Hospital

Know When It's Time to Check Yourself In

Verywell / Laura Porter

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

If you're experiencing severe depression symptoms, having thoughts of harming yourself or others, or your current treatment just isn't helping, you may consider checking yourself into a hospital. Although this can be a frightening thought, you may find it less intimidating if you know what to expect from the process.

When You Should Go to a Hospital

You may choose to be hospitalized if you're having symptoms that are putting you or others at risks, including:

Hospitalization can also be helpful if you're finding yourself too ill to eat, bathe, or sleep properly. In addition, your doctor may recommend hospitalization when you're making significant changes in your treatment plan that require close supervision.

Hospitalization is appropriate any time you need a safe place to receive intensive treatment until your symptoms stabilize.

Before You're Admitted

Because you're probably feeling overwhelmed right now, you may want to ask a friend or family member to help you through the process of checking into the hospital and filling out paperwork.

If possible, you or they should call ahead of time to learn about the hospital's rules and procedures and ask about what items you should bring with you. Information about visiting hours and telephone access will also be helpful.

What Hospital Rules to Expect

Even though you may have been hospitalized of your own free will, the hospital will set rules to ensure your safety, including:

  • Initially being in a locked ward that you cannot leave at will
  • Locking away certain items that you could potentially use to harm yourself (for example, belts, razors, and shoelaces)
  • Following a schedule for your meals, treatments, activities, and bedtime
  • Sharing a room with someone else

When You're Admitted

One of the first things that will happen is that a psychiatrist will evaluate you to determine an appropriate treatment plan to meet your specific needs.

Your treatment plan will likely involve work with a variety of mental health professionals, including:

You will most likely participate in individual therapy, group therapy, or family therapy during your stay. In addition, you will probably receive one or more psychiatric medicines.

Hospital staff will also take care of getting approval for your stay from your insurance provider. Your insurance company will periodically evaluate your progress during your stay to determine if you need additional time in the hospital.

If you are denied coverage for hospitalization by your insurance company, you and your psychiatrist may appeal.

Your Rights as a Patient

Note that the criteria and rules surrounding voluntary hospitalization (when you check yourself in) differ greatly from involuntary hospitalization (when someone else checks you in). If you sign yourself into a hospital, you also have the right to sign yourself back out.

However, the exception to this rule is if the hospital staff believes you are a danger to yourself or others. If you are not a danger to anyone, the hospital must release you within two to seven days of your formal request, depending on the laws in your particular state.

If you experience any problems getting the hospital to release you, you should contact your state's protection and advocacy agency.

While you are at the hospital, you also have the right to:

  • Be completely informed about all tests and treatments you will be receiving, including the risks and benefits
  • Refuse any tests or treatments that you feel are unnecessary or unsafe
  • Refuse to participate in experimental treatment or training sessions involving students or observers

Except for your insurance company, no one will be told about your hospitalization without your permission.

Links & Resources

After You're Discharged

After you are discharged from the hospital, your doctor may recommend a day-treatment program. This type of program will provide you with many of the benefits you received during your hospitalization, such as psychotherapy and other services, with the flexibility to return home at night and on the weekends.

When you're discharged, it's essential to know how to continue your treatment after you leave the hospital. Be sure to consult with your healthcare providers regarding your discharge plan.

If you feel comfortable and need the help, enlist the help of friends, family, or trusted loved ones to help you follow through with your plan. Their assistance can involve everything from taking you to appointments to providing a listening ear. You can also point them to tips on how to help someone with depression.

Suicide risk can be particularly prominent for those who are discharged from a psychiatric hospital. A 2016 study in JAMA Psychiatry found that short-term suicide risk after being discharged by psychiatric hospital was highest for people with mental disorders characterized by prominent depressive features.

According to the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the transition from inpatient to outpatient is critical for reducing suicide risk, and there are many steps your providers can take. Generally, it's important to have inpatient and outpatient providers work together and enlist the support of friends and family.

Results from a 2021 Danish study suggest that a follow-up home visit after discharge could be a vital step in identifying and supporting people who may be at increased risk of suicide after hospitalization.

Continuing Your Recovery

Treatment for depression doesn't end with hospitalization. Steps that you can take to ensure your continued recovery include:

  • Keeping all your doctor appointments
  • Taking your medications as prescribed
  • Finding a support group
  • Taking care of yourself by eating well, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep
  • Learning techniques to reduce stress
  • Being gentle with yourself and realizing that you, like everyone else, are a work-in-progress

Not having the structure and routine that the hospital provides can be nerve-racking. Establishing a regular routine, such as going to bed, waking up, and exercising at certain times, could be beneficial.

Crisis Plan of Action

Because depression tends to be a chronic illness, it's wise to have a plan and compile necessary information in one place should you ever need to be hospitalized again. This information should include the following:

  • Your doctor's name and contact information
  • Contact information for trusted friends, family, or support group members
  • Information about other health issues you might have
  • A list of all medications that you take (and cannot take)
  • A list of any allergies
  • Your insurance information
  • The name of the hospital where you prefer to receive treatment

You may also have an advance directive and medical power of attorney prepared for you if you wish to give a trusted person the authority to act on your behalf in making medical decisions. This step will ensure that your will is carried out should you become too ill to make your own decisions.

A Word From Verywell

Checking yourself into the hospital for depression can be a difficult decision to make, but don't let apprehension around this process prevent you from getting the help you need. There are resources that can help you along the way, and there are effective treatments for depression. When you need them, be sure to enlist the help of friends and family.

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