People choose to go to the hospital for various reasons. You may choose to go to the hospital to closely monitor your experiences to get a more accurate diagnosis. Or you might want to have your medications adjusted or stabilized. If you're experiencing crisis or an acute episode when your mental illness temporarily worsens, going to the hospital might not be an option. This is no difference from someone who has diabetes or a heart condition. You may check yourself into a hospital voluntarily if you are feeling very ill and cannot wait to see your primary care provider or your specialist, or you may be admitted at the insistence of a family member or professional or because of an encounter with a first responder, like an EMT or police officer.
The goal of hospitalization is stabilization of a condition, and most hospital stays for mental health conditions are only a few days or less. A single hospitalization is not usually going to result in an immediate cure for a mental illness. It is more likely going to take care of the immediate crisis, and then result in a referral to a community-based mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist, to decide with you on the right follow-up treatment.
It is important to carefully assess if hospitalization is necessary for yourself or a loved one and if it is the best option under the circumstances – and to be involved in making decision whenever you can. But not at the expense of your health and well-being. Just as you would if you were having a heart attack, you should let professionals deal with the emergency crisis first, and then when you’re feeling better start working with them on your next steps.
In some circumstances, you may want to consider creating a Psychiatric Advance Directive before going to the hospital. A Psychiatric Advance Directive is a written legal document that expresses your wishes about what types of treatments, services and other assistance you want or don't want during times when you are having difficulty communicating or making decisions. You can also use it to grant legal decision-making authority to another person, called an "agent." The agent then becomes your advocate at times when you cannot make decisions for yourself. For more information on psychiatric advance directives and how to prepare one, click here.