Voluntary Mental Health Admission

When a mental health condition has deteriorated to the point of a severe psychiatric break, hospitalization is the appropriate level of care. When a loved one is in the midst of a psychiatric event or crisis it is presents difficult choices. Will your loved one voluntarily agree to be admitted to the hospital or is an involuntary admission necessary?

Understanding the options available and the differences between an involuntary and voluntary mental health admission can help smooth the way toward your loved one’s healing.

What Constitutes a Mental Health Crisis?

When living with a mental health disorder each day can present unpredictable developments. While one day the individual is feeling stable and optimistic, the following day might find them contemplating suicide. Mental illness is complex and does not progress in a straight line. Even the most closely monitored disorders can suddenly take an extreme turn for the worse.

Signs that a mental illness has become a psychiatric crisis revolve around impaired functioning and being a danger to oneself or others. When the individual’s symptoms appear to have deteriorated, the following signs would constitute grounds for hospitalization:

  • Becoming incommunicative, catatonic
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Unable to function at even basic daily tasks
  • Aggressive or violent behaviors
  • Impulsive risky behaviors that endangers the individual or others
  • Psychotic symptoms, such as paranoia, hallucinations, or delusions
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Not eating or sleeping normally
  • Threatening suicide

When some of these signs are present it is important to discuss a voluntary mental health admission with the individual.

Different Types of Mental Health Treatment Centers

Covering a wide spectrum of mental health disorders at varying levels of care, mental health programs come in a variety of formats. These include:

  • Outpatient private practice providers
  • Outpatient mental health treatment centers or day programs
  • Residential mental health centers
  • Dual diagnosis treatment programs
  • Psychiatric hospitals

The psychiatric hospital provides the highest level of care, with acute stabilization services, 24-hour monitoring, medical care, and intensive psychiatric treatment. These facilities may be a state psychiatric hospital, a private psychiatric hospital, or a general hospital with a designated psychiatric floor.

8 Benefits of Voluntary Mental Health Admission

When approaching a loved one about voluntarily admitting to a mental health center for more focused care you may be met with resistance. This is understandable, as no one likes the idea of needing this level of care for a mental health disorder. But it is helpful to convince them that by entering a program voluntarily there are several benefits, versus involuntary admission. These benefits include:

  1. Self-admitting into a psychiatric hospital or residential mental health program with acute stabilization services is the most efficient option for getting the necessary psychiatric help quickly.
  2. There is reduced stigma attached to a voluntary hospitalization versus an involuntary admission.
  3. It gives the patient a feeling of control over their desire and need for treatment, versus being taken against their will.
  4. It allows the patient to voluntarily leave the facility.
  5. The individual will feel a sense of ownership about their treatment, leading to higher levels of involvement in the treatment interventions and activities.
  6. Patients who enter treatment voluntarily are more inclined to experience improvement than those admitted involuntarily.
  7. Voluntary admissions are often shorter than involuntary admissions, often because the patient is engaged in his or her treatment and more cooperative.
  8. The relationship between the patient and the doctors assigned to them is less adversarial with voluntary admissions.

What to Expect in a Psychiatric Hospitalization

Someone who is admitted into a psychiatric hospital, either voluntarily or involuntarily, will likely require acute stabilization. This involves continual monitoring, medication analysis, adjustment, and prescription of psychotropic drugs, IV fluids, and the initial evaluation and preliminary diagnosis of the admitting psychiatrist. Patient medical history and psychiatric history will be reviewed, as well as current symptoms. Until stabilized the patient will remain in a secured area of the hospital.

Ongoing treatment during the hospital stay will involve an integrated approach using evidence-based therapies, medication, and adjunctive therapies. Holistic therapies may also be included in the treatment program, as these are conducive to stress management and relaxation.

Individual and group therapy sessions will be provided daily. These enable the patient to work through underlying psychological issues that may be contributing to the enhanced psychiatric break. In addition to examining past traumas or other painful events in their life, the patient will also likely have to process feelings of shame or guilt related to their mental condition. Many patients feel as if they are a burden to loved ones and fear abandonment or rejection.

Once the patient has achieved a stabilized status they may request to leave the hospital setting and step down to either a residential or outpatient mental health program. Only patients who are admitted voluntarily can make such requests.

Stepping Down After Psychiatric Hospital Stay

When it is appropriate for the individual to leave the hospital setting and transition to either residential or outpatient care, they will experience more freedom and autonomy. A residential program will likely offer many of the same treatment elements, but may have a more relaxed setting compared to the hospital. A residential stay can be as short as a couple of weeks up to several months, depending on the unique mental health needs of the patient.

Outpatient programs are available once the individual is ready to return either home or to reside in transitional living for a period of time. The outpatient program can be minimal, such as one or two therapy sessions per week, to more intensive such as a day program.

The Treatment Specialist is An Online Resource For Mental Health Information

The Treatment Specialist offers help for individuals or loved ones experiencing psychological distress. Our trained specialists provide free information about the mental health disorder and can guide individuals toward appropriate treatment options for the specific disorder or dual diagnosis. If you need more information about a voluntary mental health admission, please connect with The Treatment Specialist today at (866) 644-7911 for a free confidential assessment.


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