Depression Hospitalization: Why Would Someone Need To Go To the Hospital For Depression?

Reviewed by Dawn Brown, LPC, NCC

Published 12/11/2020

When you think about treating depression symptoms, going to the hospital may not be something you think about. For some, this is a critical decision when experiencing serious complications with their symptoms. While hospitalization has helped people in treatment-resistant depression or severe depression, there is a stigma about being hospitalized with depression. Some people consider this option while holding off on taking action. There is nothing wrong with being in a stable, safe environment while recovering. On the other hand, some may have concerns about what else they can do for their symptoms if they sense they're getting worse.

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Situations To Consider For Hospitalization

People may not see depression as something a hospital would treat, but it is a serious illness like heart disease requiring special attention when symptoms are problematic or life-threatening. There are several reasons why hospitalization is recommended for people with depression. While there may not be a thing such as depression hospitals, many local hospitals provide treatment for depressive symptoms. The treatment provided depends on patient needs and their situations. Here are cases where a person with depression could benefit from staying in the hospital:

Self-Harm Or Risk To Others. A person who is at risk of harming themselves, suicidal, or is a safety risk to others is the most common reason for a hospital stay. Someone may need hospitalization as prevention from committing violence or suicide. People who need to stay in the hospital get the support they need to regain control of their lives. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, and is available 24/7.

Unable To Care For Self. A person who is so depressed they cannot carry out daily tasks and responsibilities might benefit from hospitalization. A person may be unable to take care of themselves for different reasons, such as feeling very tired or need physical assistance.

Medication Observation. A person taking medication for depression might need observation from a medical professional when taking a new medication. It is common for a doctor to recommend a hospital stay when making adjustments to patient medication. At the hospital, the patient is supervised closely to ensure the medication works. The doctor learns how well your treatment is going and can address your concerns as they occur should you have any.

Hospital-Only Treatment. A person may need specialized treatment only available through hospitalization. Whether you need anesthesia for therapy like ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), or any other health-related concern about your depression, you'll be under the watchful eye of your doctor and learn prognosis depending on how well your treatment goes.

Deciding to go to the hospital is usually a personal choice, but it may also come as a recommendation from your doctor or mental health specialist. Either way, you are making a commitment toward recovery that is commendable. There are rules and regulations regarding hospitalization for mental health or psychiatric evaluations that allow a person to voluntarily seek and commit to treatment. You should review legal rules if you think a loved one should seek hospitalization but refuses to do so. A mental health professional can provide details upon request.

Reducing Stigma And Shame

The thought of going to the hospital for depressive symptoms could make you feel scared, upset, or shameful. You may wonder how people will judge you or think you are weak because you can't cope. Such thoughts are common, but it is not valid. Remember, it is likely people who make such assumptions don't understand what severe depression is like. Having it doesn't mean you are weak or lazy.

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People may think someone who is suicidal is being selfish when it is far from the truth. Sometimes a person can be in such a dark place with their emotional pain; they need guidance from a trained medical professional that understands. Some may think a person who is depressed doesn't know how to solve their problems. Again, this is untrue, but you can get assistance with your situation so you can get back on track to living your life.

Depressive symptoms that keep you from living your life need attention. As a serious mental illness, depression may require ongoing care, including changes to treatment plans. The best way to reduce the stigma and shame is to accept your situation. Accept the fact you're choosing to get help to make things better for yourself. It takes courage to move forward with this decision. You may feel frightful initially, but it will likely lead to gaining practical support to encourage change so you can feel better and live a meaningful life.

What Happens When You Go To The Hospital?

Most hospitals have processes and procedures in place when treating people with mental health concerns. Suppose you're thinking about going to the hospital for your symptoms. In that case, you can get information about the process and what happens when you're admitted by contacting the hospital to inquire about their psychiatric care. Hospitals may have a psychiatric unit or wing devoted to such care. Each hospital varies as some provide partial hospitalization or 24-hour supervised care.

You can ask questions about their care before or during check-in. You can ask if they treat people with your condition and what tests may be required. You can ask about how the doctor will evaluate your situation and who will provide your care.

After checking-in, you may be asked questions about your depression and complete a physical exam to understand your health status. The information collected helps determine how you'll be treated. You may have more questions about your stay after check-in, which is entirely normal. You may wonder if you can have friends or family visit you. You may ask about what you should bring from home. You may wonder if you can leave your room to take a walk. You may wonder who you will work with personally to develop your treatment plan.

Make a list of what you want to ask, and don't be shy. You are entitled to getting answers to ensure you get the help you need.

Patient Rights

As a patient, you have the right to learn about your treatment and how it will be provided. You have the right to know the process and procedures related to the care you need. You can refuse treatment if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. You have the right to refuse participation in training sessions or experimental situations with student interns and observers. You have the right to your personal information to remain confidential. Patient rights are outlined through a regulation known as HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Understanding your rights as a patient is essential. You'll also want to review what your insurance will and will not cover. If you don't have insurance, you may still be entitled to receive care under certain circumstances. Information related to HIPAA is available online, but many hospitals provide information to you before treatment. You can also learn about rules and regulations for patient care for the state you reside in.

What To Do After Your Discharged

Upon discharge, your doctor may recommend a treatment program to continue the hospital's progress and manage your symptoms. There are different program options, and they vary depending on your reason for hospitalization. It may include therapy or other proactive activity to do certain days of the week. You'll focus on your recovery after leaving the hospitable by doing several actions, including:

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  • Maintaining doctor appointments
  • Sticking to your medication schedule
  • Engage in a support group or establish a support network
  • Practice self-care by sleeping, eating, and exercising right
  • Learn relaxation techniques and how to control stress
  • Be good to yourself, allow patience, and remember you are a work-in-progress
  • Have a trusted friend or family member help you be accountable for your responsibilities

When you leave the hospital, it helps to have a positive outlook. You could use your time before discharge to set goals and think about how you'll accomplish them. While the hospital stay may have helped with your symptoms, you can use that time to mentally, physically, and emotionally recharge.

What To Do If You Need Help

Depression is a challenging illness, and sometimes things can get overwhelming. Consider having a plan in place, such as a crisis plan if you need to go to the hospital again. The plan may include information about who your doctor is and their contact details, contact information for friends and family, contact information for a peer support group, medication and allergy list, insurance details, and your preferred hospital for treatment. You can choose to have a medical power of attorney or some form of advanced instruction on your behalf by a trusted party if you're not able to make directives yourself.

There is nothing wrong with choosing hospitalization for depression symptoms, although it helps learn why it is an option. Many living with severe depression may struggle with managing symptoms, but there is specialized medical support available for any situation. Deciding to go shows you want to feel better, and you are willing to give things a try.