How Hospital Damages You

A lot of people who have mental health struggles have to be admitted into a facility to aid them in their recovery; whether that is inpatient or outpatient, hospitals or other units. As the title of this post suggests, this is about hospitals specifically and how it can deeply affect and negatively impact a patient during and after their admission.

Now, it wasn’t all negative over my two year inpatient experience – I made friends, we had a laugh, we were supported as a group and individually and learnt many coping mechanisms to aid me in my recovery. Some of the things I learnt, I would have never even thought of out in the community. As a group in hospital, the patients managed to support each other in both their highs and lows; celebrating the good and helping each other through the bad. Hospital opened my eyes to a variety of different problems people had that I had never considered before and gave me an insight into why people get to the point they are at. We messed around as rowdy teenagers, attended and kept up with education and had all kinds of themed activities (including a party for my eighteenth birthday this year).

On the other hand, there is a significantly larger amount of negative experiences. From being beaten up, seeing friends in distress to day after day of alarms – there is a shocking amount of trauma and damage frequently caused by psychiatric wards and hospitals; these places are meant to be places of safety and recovery. Sometimes it simply didn’t feel that way. For me, one of the hardest things was watching friends relapse, this can happen in the community, but in hospital there is no means of escape and you are constantly watching people’s conditions deteriorating.

My personal experience with these units was a long one, meaning I witnessed a big variety of different types of incidents and people struggling. I met a lot of people who were new to living in a facility like that and also many that were new to working in that kind of place, which could be very difficult on them. Time and time again, I saw how mental health affects the individual, their families, the staff, therapists and the doctors. There’s something about seeing all the sides of the service that make you start to truly understand how mental health isn’t that much different than physical, long-term illness.

There are many different ways that mental health is managed in a hospital setting. Firstly there is coping strategies of all different kinds, and therapy; then it becomes more of a physical treatment: medication (regular and PRN – as required medication), IM (intramuscular injections), restraint.

Agreement to being in hospital is called an ‘voluntary admission’, meaning you have chose to come in. If somebody believes you do not have the capacity to accept treatment or you are refusing although you need to be treated, you can be detained under the Mental Health Act under a variety of different ‘sections’. These can range from a matter of hours to months and, in some cases, years. If you are involuntary, in the UK, you do not have to accept any part of the treatment you do not want to – including medication – but being on a section results in a lack of choice and you can be forced to take medication (through IM injections) and can be restrained if you are at serious risk of hurting yourself or others.

One of the main issues with hospitals, I believe, is that putting many people with similar problems in a small space where they not be allowed to leave of their own will, can create a lot of anger and can make people result to dangerous behaviours. The issue is that patients learn from each other. They may see or hear what another person does as a self harming behaviour and start to do it themselves. People may set themselves back in their recovery because they want to ‘fit in’, which is extremely dangerous in a hospital setting. Being around peers, it can feel like you’re living in a school or with your best friends. People focus on each other, when at this time in their life they need to concentrate on themselves.

Some things I have seen are things I will never be able to ‘unsee’.

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