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My Week in the Mental Hospital

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My Week in the Mental Hospital

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“I want to kill myself.”

Four words young people use so commonly when they are overwhelmed, followed by a soft chuckle. There was a point in my life where I meant those words, and even attempted to take my own life. I have always struggled with depression, and being in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship did not help.

This caused me to be admitted in a mental hospital for a week.

I know that comes with a negative connotation. But lives are at stake here.

Depression has always been a constant battle I had to live with. At the age of eight, I was in talk therapy to treat it. It was passed down by my mother, another victim who struggles with it to this day. I grew up having a very low self esteem. I did not think I was worth being loved and I was very insecure and uncomfortable in my own skin. I found it was hard to find motivation to do anything and I was in a constant state of sadness and anger.

When I was in an abusive relationship, my mental health started to get a lot worse. I made excuses for the way that person treated me, because at the time, I didn’t think anyone else would love me, and I was conditioned to think everything was my fault.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. It is also the second leading cause of death between the ages of 15 and 34. In 2017, there were a total of 1,300,ooo suicide attempts within the nation, and 90 percent of all attempts were related to a mental illness. It only makes sense that pubic psychiatric facilities should be funded and equipped to treat inpatients of this age group. However, this is not always the case due to insurance companies trying to reduce costs by any means.

The fact in New York City, according to Domestic Violence Shelters.org, one in three women experience some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships, including verbal and emotional abuse. A lot of these women end up in some kind of psychiatric facility or shelter. 

I was in a constant fight with my boyfriend. Once my younger sister found out he had been physically abusive with me, and my parents were fed up with my behavior, I decided I had enough of it all.

Thankfully, my parents busted through the bathroom before I was able to hurt myself in any way.

My sister, Paola Lopez, was the one who urged my parents to cal 9-1-1 and get me admitted as an inpatient in the hospital.

I did not like this idea at all, and I was really afraid because of the way I’ve seen mental institutions on TV.

But she looked at me and said “If you love me, you would do this. You need help,”and I agreed.

I can say my sister is one of the most important people in my life and if it wasn’t for her I don’t know where I would be.

“I knew I couldn’t control the situation and you needed help beyond what I could help you with, also I knew I would be scared all night and I couldn’t go through trying to save you again,” Lopez said.

Once I got there, I was changed into blue scrubs, and nurses packed away my personal belongings. I was giving my room I was left to rest. I looked at the four white walls at 4 a.m. and cried practically the whole night. I was afraid of what was to come and did not know what to expect.

The layout of the  hospital was in a square and had a dinning area, a TV room, a very small court yard, an arts and craft room and a small mediation room filled with posters of the beach and a single comfortable chair.

The area was called the Behavioral Health Unit in the hospital.

I had a meeting with my doctor the day after I was admitted. Seeing the people around me before I entered her office made me feel very out of place. There were people a lot older than me giving nurses a very hard time and even throwing objects at them. My doctor sat with me for a talk therapy session. I let her in on how I felt to some extent. I was feeling hopeless and suicidal. I left out  a lot of details including the abuse I was experiencing because I was not that comfortable with her since it was our first session. The doctor than told me I needed time. She advised me to to attend group sessions and take my medication.

She told me that they were going to decide when I was allowed to leave according to how much I progressed during my stay. The more I left my room, took my medication and looked better, the faster I’d get out.

Deal. Get me out. 

That was the only time I spoke with her one on one. I was given anti-depressants every morning before breakfast by my nurse.

 Historically  mental health institutions have gone through a number of phases. Society needed a method of treating the mentally ill especially after war  during the early 1900s mental asylums would simply restrain and lock away the mentally ill. Around 1930, psychiatric facilities treated people with sedative drugs which suppressed the patients nervous system. They would also do a number of mind and body psychotherapies that have since been found unethical.

 

For example according to PBS , schizophrenics were treated with hydrotherapy where there were bathed in hot or cold waters for hours at a time. This lead to many suffering from seizures. Severally depressed patients were treated with lobotomies a process of passing electrical currents in the brain. The velocity was at times so high it would leave patients in a vegetable like state with permeant disabilities. Much improvement has been made to replace the unethical practices of the past.

However, due to lack of funding to public psychiatric facilities and some insurance companies seeking extreme profit, impatient  units have become less effective. Especially with young adults 15-35 suffering from severe depression, according to the AFSP. Hospitals are now trying to reduce the time one spends at the hospital and are focussing more on outpatient care. When one is in inpatient units, a patient are overmedicated to get one out of the room and back to a normal state of mind. One is surrounded by patients who may be a lot older dealing with mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Doctor Irma Vega, clinical psychologist of 20 years, said nowadays inpatients in behavioral health units are treated with talk therapy, group sessions and drug medication. She admits that a lot of improvements need to be made in these facilities to treat the youth in a more effective mater. Vega worked with chronically ill schizophrenics at a behavioral health unit.

“A decade ago, services were a lot more extensive. It used to be a 21 day period, now you are lucky to even get five days. They sedate you with medication that they don’t fully teach you about and there is little to no services available,” Vega said .

She claims that patients are even allowed to sign themselves out after a three day period or less because hospitals are trying to focus on outpatient programs to reduce insurance coast.

“You could be even suicidal and within three hours, you’ll be out,” Irma said.

Irma feels that there is a desperate need for services that cater to young adults in order to improve the rate of their recovery.

“Teenagers are vulnerable because their brain grows backwards, yet are expected to act as adults. They need services catered specifically to their age group. It is a sad state in which they treat patients in those facilities,” Irma said.

I was admitted at the hospital for a total of five days. A nurse would do round checks every 15 minutes to make sure we were alive and another nurse would monitor the patients vitals every half hour.  The inpatients had a set schedule placed at the white board. From what time we ate meals to when we had group sessions and when we had free time. We were also given two visiting hours a day. At first, it was really had to simulate to my environment, but I found peace sitting next to a sunflower painting while I ate my unappetizing meals.

We only had group sessions twice because they didn’t have anyone to run them, so it was constantly getting cancelled.

Thanks for the help.

I was fortunate enough to have an extremely supportive family to visit me everyday. The other inpatients even called me the most popular girl in there. My aunt flew in from Florida just to make sure I was okay. My cousin came from in Navy base in Connecticut and my grandfather and uncle took time off work to see me. It made me realize how truly blessed and loved I was to have family that loved me regardless of all my flaws. It gave me a reason to want to live and get better, and never let them feel the grief of my loss.

What also helped me was meeting a friend in there who was close to my age. We both had been suffering from depression and were in for similar reasons. We related on the same taste in music and had the same sense of humor. We would eat meals together and hang out in the TV room which made my stay tolerable.

18 year-old Austin Luker has had an extensive battle with depression and substance abuse.

“I have had to deal with depression at an early age due to abuse in my household. My father admitted me to the hospital because I was hallucinating after taking a whole bottle of sleeping pills and Xanax,” Luker said.

The hospital didn’t give Luker anything to detox and let him sleep it off. We were both admitted at the same time but I remember seeing him a day after because he had slept through the whole day. After he woke up, they gave him different medications to treat his depression and bi polar disorder.

“These places really aren’t the best they just give you pills and send you on your way. It’s very had being in there. If you don’t have a friend, you can find yourself going crazy. I was lucky to at least have someone like you who can relate to what I was going through to talk to,” Luker said.

There is a lot of negative stigma surrounding mental hospitals. Young people struggling with mental health don’t like the idea of being admitted at the hospital, and for obvious reasons.

“If you truly need help, I suggest going. Yes, it’s hard and they do over medicate you, but if you truly want to get better, you will, and it’s better safe then sorry, “Luker said.

Case worker Ana Cordro has worked for the Association of Progressive Dominicans Outbound Youth Program for 13 years. She helped kids ages under 18 in need by linking them to the proper help they need. Whether it be a mental health clique, a detox center or social services. Cordro has had a couple cases where she has linked a young adult to a mental health clique which was located across the street from her office.

“I had a case where a bright young lady was feeling suicidal after discovering she had been adopted. Once we hear students talk about harming themselves, we are obligated to seek further help. I walked her myself to the hospital across the street. Thankfully she recovered and we have a wonderful relationship to this day,” Cordro said.

Cordro also feels that there is room for improvement within mental hospitals in order to make them more suitable for young adults.

“They definitely need more group and individual sessions and they also need staff that is able to connect with young adults by learning their language and lingo in order to connect with them and make them more comfortable to open up,” Cordro said.

According to Cordro, within the last five years, safety plans have changed because they don’t want people being admitted at hospitals to reduce coast.

“I think this needs to change. If people need severe help they should be admitted at a hospital,” Cordro said.

19 year-old Jane, who for personal reasons has asked her identity to remain private, has had a very bad experience after being admitted to a mental hospital last year. She signed herself out after five hours of being there.

“They pay  no attention to you and treat you like a criminal, and I was constantly waiting for them to help me,” Jane said.

She also felt very out of place because everyone in there was a lot older than her with different needs to be met.

When I was finally released from the hospital, I created a safety plan with appointments of doctors to see and a list of close family and friends I could talk to in case I was feeling down again. I was able to tell the case worker that I had realized I was in an abusive relationship that I needed to get rid off and I was ready to get back on my feet, take control of my depression once and for all.  He was very impressed with my progressed and I was able to leave with my family, who were more than happy to see me.

There is much improvements that need to be made in these institution in order to save the bright lives of young adults. If I had killed myself a few months ago, I wouldn’t be experiencing some of the best moments of my life right now. I have accomplished so much since then, one of which being able to live my life as a reporter and writer. I can breathe now. Tomorrow is beautiful. The fight isn’t easy, but is definitely worth it. Keep fighting. 

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741743. If you are having thoughts of suicide or are struggling with depression, please talk someone about it. 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Writer
Valerie Lopez, Associate Editor

Valerie Lopez is a small town Hispanic girl from upstate New York who has big dreams and endless potential. She is a journalism major going into her sophomore...

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