I'd like to tell you something. The comments we get on this blog, especially lately, talk about how horrible it is to be treated in a psych unit. People say they would rather die then go back, they're infantilized, demeaned, and sometimes people describe frank abuse. They deem it comparable to rape and torture. In my all-voluntary outpatient practice, I treat patients who sometimes get hospitalized and I make a point of asking people about their experiences. People end up in psych hospitals during miserable periods in their lives, so it's never a happy issue, but unlike our blog commenters, my patients often say the hospitalization was helpful, that people were kind to them, and that they left in a better state. I don't work in the hospital and I generally have open and warm relationships with my outpatients -- who know I don't have anything to do with inpatient units -- so I'm thinking that perhaps they aren't lying out of fear of retribution if they are readmitted.
Let me add something else, the two biggest psych units near me are rated in the top ten in the country. This may well be a skewed sample. Few people go to state hospitals in Maryland for routine psych care-- the state hospitals are mostly for forensic patients and the state leases out short-term beds in community hospitals for the uninsured. There are still a few long-term patients in the state hospitals, but not a lot. And the chairman of my residency program made a point of asking every patient he interviewed if they were being treated well; The patient might be afraid to say they were treated meanly by a nurse, but the nurse would be even more afraid. And please don't think that means that no one ever muttered an insensitive word to a patient or did the wrong thing, but I do think most patients there thought it fell short of torture. In urban areas, many are looking for "three hots and a cot" and the hospital often fills that roll. And some of the units attracted patients from all over the country who really, really wanted to be there for relief of their torment.
I'd like to know about your experience if you've ever been treated as an inpatient on a psych unit. Will you take a quick survey for me? And please -- this isn't science, it's not validated -- but please just answer one time and one time only. And thank you so much!