When experiencing a mental health crisis, receiving the right level of support is essential to begin the stabilization and healing process. This is where a psychiatric hospital, also known as a behavioral health unit, is often utilized. A psychiatric hospital is a facility appropriately staffed by medical and mental health professionals to address acute mental health concerns to help your loved one. Psychiatric hospitals have been severely misrepresented by entertainment genres such as horror scary and isolated asylums. This is not the case in modern mental health care. Psychiatric hospitals can be free-standing institutions or attached to larger hospital campuses. Often, these buildings or units are locked to prioritize the safety of those inside receiving services. However, unlike in popular thriller series patients are not locked away and forgotten. Most patients in behavioral health units are there for short-term stabilization while creating a long-term treatment plan.
Staff at a Psychiatric Hospital
Now that we’ve set the scene, let’s review the staff most likely to be present in a psychiatric hospital. Medical needs are tended to by a team of doctors, nurses, nurse aides, and psychiatrists. Is it the responsibility of these professionals to monitor the medication dispensed to patients and address any physical health concerns. The medical team partners with a team of mental health professionals made up of counselors, psychologists, case managers, and behavioral health technicians. This comprehensive team works together to assess patients experiencing a mental health crisis and establish a stabilization and care plan.
Different Types of Facilities
Though covered under the term psychiatric hospital or behavioral health unit, not every facility is the same and considerations should be made to choose the right fit for an individual’s needs. Insurance coverage is often a primary consideration for choosing a hospital. Different facilities may be in network with specific insurance providers and vary in their fees for services. Whether or not the behavioral health unit is attached to a hospital is an important consideration for individuals who are experiencing medical concerns along with mental health concerns. Mental health crises such as psychosis can be exacerbated by substance use. Therefore, if there is evidence of recent substance use a facility that also has certified addiction professionals on staff may be the best option. For individuals who may require long-term services, consideration may be given to the level of aftercare service coordination that is provided to patients.
Admission to a psychiatric hospital often occurs at a time of crisis and high stress. For individuals experiencing mental health concerns, as well as their support system, becoming informed about the services offered at nearby facilities can remove some uncertainty and overwhelm from an already emotionally heavy situation. Asking questions and being intentional about addressing individual needs can place a patient on the path to recovery.
After My Loved One Recovers, What Happens Next?
Being the loved one of a patient who has experienced an acute mental health crisis can bring uncertainty and confusion around the recovery process. Often, patients move through various levels of care in their recovery process and the role of their support system may shift and change with each phase of treatment. Let’s discuss what this process may look like and how to be an informed participant in their care.
Let’s begin by reviewing the different levels of mental health care. The highest level of care and monitoring for mental health takes place in facilities such as Crisis Stabilization Units (CSUs). The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) defines a CSU as “a small inpatient facility of fewer than sixteen beds for people in a mental health crisis whose needs cannot be met safely in residential service settings (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2020).
Following stabilization in a CSU, the next step down in the level of care is a residential treatment facility. In residential treatment, patients live on-site with staff support and supervision while engaging in therapeutic services.
Following residential treatment comes partial hospitalization or day hospitalization services. This level of care patients still requires support but do not present as a danger to themselves or others and return home at night after engaging in services during the day.
From there, a patient may step down to Intensive Outpatient Programming, also known as IOP. At the IOP level of care, the amount of time a patient spends engaging in individual and group therapy is again reduced to often three times per week while living in the community. The least structured level of care is outpatient services that a patient may engage in with an independent mental health professional, such as a counselor or psychologist, once per week.
How to Support Your Loved Ones
Now that we’ve reviewed what the continuum of care looks like for a patient, let’s explore how a loved one may be a support throughout the process. During an individual’s treatment journey, family or other supports may be invited to engage in a family program or family sessions. These are opportunities to learn about topics related to recovery, as well as discuss the individual needs of the patient. During lower levels of care, the patient may need a supportive living environment which may entail living with a member of their support network or a structured supportive living program.
A loved one can also be supportive by engaging in their own mental health care and exploring their own experience, fears, and anxieties. Maintaining open communication and remaining curious and involved in a loved one’s treatment plan can increase the odds of long-term remission from acute mental health symptoms.
Palms Behavioral Health is Here to Help
If you need help selecting a psychiatric hospital for you or a loved one, please reach out to Palms Behavioral Health as soon as possible. The trained staff is ready to help. They will listen to your concerns and explain various treatment programs available. Schedule a free assessment to get started today.