You might want to ask a loved one to help you with hospital check-in procedures and to fill out forms. You may want your loved to be your advocate if necessary and ask them to help you communicate with hospital staff.

You or a loved one may also want to call the hospital in advance to find out about check-in procedures and items you can bring. Ask if you can bring music, soap, lotion, pillows, stuffed animals, books or other things that comfort you. Find out about visiting hours and telephone access. Be sure your family and friends are aware of hospital procedures and let them know what they can do to help you.

Voluntary Hospitalization takes place when a person willingly signs forms agreeing to be treated in the hospital. A person who signs in voluntarily may also ask to leave at their discretion. Rules about how quickly the hospital must release you vary from state to state. If you ask to be released and the hospital does not comply, your state’s Protection and Advocacy Agency can help you with your next steps.

Involuntary Hospitalization is an option when symptoms have become so severe that the person is incapacitated or might be a danger to themselves or others. Rules about involuntary hospitalization vary from state to state. In most cases, you cannot be held longer than a few days without a court hearing. Involuntary hospitalization is an option of last resort only.

A note for loved ones: It is best to talk with your loved one before a crisis and create a preferred treatment directive together. Work with your loved one in advance to write down ways to cope and what to do if symptoms become severe. Having a plan can ease the stress on you and your loved one, and ensure that the appropriate care is given.

Be sure the people treating you know your needs and preferences. Make the most of your time with your doctor by making a list of questions you have as well as your current medications. You might wish to ask your loved one or hospital staff to help you with the list.

Let your doctor and staff know about any other illnesses you have or medications you take. Be sure you receive your medications for other illnesses along with the medications for depression or bipolar disorder.

Let the hospital staff know about your use of alcohol or other drugs. Hiding or minimizing your recent alcohol or drug use won’t help, and it can even be dangerous.

It may take time to get used to the routine in the hospital. If your symptoms are severe, some things may not make sense to you. Try to get what you can out of the activities. Concentrate on your own mental health and listen to what others have to say in groups. Keep a journal of your own thoughts and feelings.

You will meet other people who are working to overcome their own problems. Treat them with courtesy and respect, regardless of what they may say or do. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, tell a staff member.

Know Your Rights

  • You have the right to have your treatment explained to you, the right to be informed of the benefits and risks of your treatment, and the right to refuse treatment that you feel is unsafe.
  • You have the right to be informed about any tests or exams you are given and to refuse any procedures you feel are unnecessary, such as a gynecological exam or other invasive procedures.
  • You have the right to refuse to be part of experimental treatments or training sessions that involve students or observers.

Enlisting a Friend or Family Member to Help

Your loved ones may want to know how to help. Some ideas that you may wish to share with your friends and family include

  • ask if I would like visitors, know that I may not want to see anyone at first, and please respect those wishes;
  • find out when I am allowed to receive phone calls and visits, if I ask you to come to the hospital, stop by to say hello and bring a book, comfortable clothing, slippers, food or something else I like;
  • ask if the hospital offers a family support group to support them if you feel you need help too;
  • learn about my condition, its symptoms, and its treatments, remember that this is a mental health condition, not a character flaw, and it is not anyone’s fault;
  • help me make a list of questions about the diagnosis and treatment to ask the doctors or hospital staff; and
  • ask me if I need you to help with things like housework, care for children or pets, or phone calls to an employer during the hospital stay.