Supporting Someone After Inpatient Mental Health Treatment
Inpatient mental health treatment means that a person stays overnight in a hospital to get treatment for a mental illness. How long they stay depends on their symptoms. But it's usually for several days or longer.
It's common for someone to go to a mental health hospital for this treatment. Or they could get treatment at a general hospital that has a separate mental health department.
A hospital stay may be voluntary. This means that the person agrees to go to the hospital. Or it may be involuntary. In that case, the person doesn't agree to go.
If a person is a threat to themself or others, an involuntary stay may be needed. And an emergency hold may be placed on the person. This means that the person must stay at the hospital for a certain amount of time, usually 72 hours.
How can you give support?
If your partner, parent, child, or friend just left inpatient treatment, you may be wondering what's next for them. This is an important time for them to get follow-up care. It can help them avoid relapse. In a relapse, their symptoms return, and they may need to go back to the hospital.
Here are some ways you can help with their follow-up care.
- Ask if you can look over their discharge plan.
This plan outlines their follow-up care. It lists important information such as doctor and counselor appointments, medicines, and emergency phone numbers.
- Offer to help them get to their doctor and counselor appointments.
The first appointments are usually within 7 days of discharge.
- Offer to help them with medicines.
You can remind them to take the medicines exactly as their doctor says. And you can help watch for side effects.
- Support their self-care.
You could go for walks together or watch movies together. You could make healthy meals and encourage rest. You also could support their healthy coping skills, such as listening to soothing music, doing deep breathing, or keeping a journal.
- Encourage them to connect with others.
Being around close, supportive friends and family can help them feel better.
- Avoid focusing on the illness.
Instead, focus on what you enjoy about the person you're caring for, such as their strengths and talents.
- Take care of yourself.
- Build a support system of close friends and family.
- Find ways to relax, like taking a hot bath, reading a favorite book, or spending time with a friend.
- Practice self-compassion. Don't blame yourself for the person's illness. And remember that you can't fix their illness. If they return to the hospital, remind yourself that it's a common part of the healing journey.
- Look for a support group or counselor. You might contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). You can call the NAMI HelpLine (1-800-950-6264) or go online (www.nami.org/help) to chat with a trained volunteer.
- Watch them for signs of self-harm or suicidal behavior.
Warning signs include talking about things like suicide, feeling hopeless, or being a burden to others.
If it's an emergency or if your loved one is in a crisis, get help right away. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Or text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.
Current as of: February 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Andrew Littlefield PhD - Psychology, Behavioral Health
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine