I have met all sorts of people in different psychiatric wards, some in more severe conditions than others. Many people are bipolar, schizophrenic, or suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. The main population is in the 40s-60s age range, and there are a good number of homeless people who live on the streets or in their cars. Patients like to tell their stories and form groups just like we might in the “real world”, but this microcosm is usually focused on negatives.
I met people who had no sense of boundaries, those who shout and yell, and those who seem almost normal. Some people come in on 72-hour holds because they threaten to commit suicide or total their cars in drunk driving incidents. Many of the patients have legal problems and substance abuse issues. Some facilities have group and individual therapy, while others are more like holding tanks for stabilization on your medications.
Everyone is assigned a social worker, a contact nurse for each shift, and a psychiatrist. The social workers are responsible for helping us find outside resources and treatment options for when we leave the hospital. My contact nurse was the person I was supposed to go to for any needs, like Advil or an anti-anxiety pill. My psychiatrist was required to meet with me a certain number of times in a week, though some check in more than others. I found that being honest with them means they can help me more.
There is time every day they unlock the doors and let us go outside, either to shoot hoops or sit in the courtyard. After being inside hospital walls so constantly, sunlight is a luxury. Along with a few phones available for our use, we were allowed 1-2 visitors each evening for an hour and a half and longer on the weekends, but most people do not get visitors. Children are generally not allowed on the ward, and visitors are given name tags and a purse-search. If you psychiatrist allows it, a visitor can bring you outside food, which is always a nice break from hospital fare.
We were required to wear some form of foot protection at all times, whether the hospital-issued sticky-bottomed socks or laceless shoes. Before bed, an MA or mental health worker comes to take blood pressure and temperature readings. Nurses checked on us every half hour throughout the night, shining their little flashlights at our eyes and logging how many hours we slept. They are also supposed to monitor what percentage of our food we eat, but they like to record normal amounts of sleep and food even if you sleep or eat very little.
My 4-day inpatient stint was billed at $15,000, and insurance coverage varies widely. Overall, the money is worth your safety and health.