What Mental Asylums are Like

Everything I have seen about mental asylums has made these facilities, and the people inside of them, look dark and dangerous. I think the stigma around mental asylums is extremely exaggerated by the media around us, which leads us believe that they are only for tremendously unstable/crazy people, and if we go to one, we will be mistreated and left in a straitjacket for days. This is absolutely not the case! I’m here to tell you what actually happens inside of those walls and how going to one (or four lol) was very helpful to me.

First thing’s first, every mental asylum is different and specializes in different areas of help. I have been to only two facilities, but they were extremely different from each other; my first facility was an acute facility while the second one was not. I’ll get into this more later but bare this in mind when reading this blog: these are my experiences that I am using to break down the stigma, your experiences may be different but this can give you a better idea of what to expect from going to one.

The First/Acute Facility: An acute facility means that I had less freedoms and leeway during the stay. This may sound scary, but this was beneficial to me at the time. I wanted to hurt myself, so having less freedoms made me safe. My bedroom door had to be locked while I was out it, and the door had to be completely open while I was in it. This means every time I needed to go to the bathroom, change clothes, sleep, or grab something I owned, I needed to ask one of the nurses to open the door for me. Everybody had to share 3 showers. I could keep all my items in my room as long as they were not electronics, hardcovered books, or did not have hoods, strings, laces, or chords. You could go outside if one of the nurses was willing to sit with you. The nurses escorted everybody, in a line, to the cafeteria for each meal. There was a payphone (I didn’t actually have to pay to call) that everybody shared so we could contact our loved ones.

The Second/Non-Acute Facility: I could do a lot more on my own within this mental institution compared to the first one. My bedroom door was always unlocked, and I could shut the door if I wanted to, plus each room had its own shower. If I wanted to go outside, I had to have a nurse open the door for me, but I could be out there by myself. I could walk myself to the cafeteria for each meal (within a specific time period). We could have our cell phones at night to talk to our families. The rest of the rules were similar to the first facility.

Although these two asylums seem fairly different, the schedule was almost the same each day:

  • Wake up at a specific time each day
  • Take medications
  • Check vitals (blood pressure, temperature, etc.)
  • Participated in group and personal therapies throughout the day
  • Talk to your doctor about medications
  • Personal time
  • Get ready for bed
  • Take medications
  • Check vitals
  • Then go to sleep

Another very similar thing at these two places was the in and out-processing. In-processing took waaay longer than you may have expected. They ask lots relatively personal questions that may be uncomfortable for you to answer at first (such as do you cut, do you have substance abuse problems, are you violent), but this is all to ensure proper care for the problems you are having. Out-processing was rather very quick; it mostly consists of waiting for your ride to arrive and saying goodbye to the people you have met there. Although it may not seem like it, you grow rather close to the people that are going through treatment with you. Without the outside world and everybody there having similar issues, its easy to talk to and relate to other patients.

So now that we established that mental asylums are not full of dangerous people and you are not going to be thrown into a padded room for a week, let’s talk about the point of going to one at all. Is talking to strangers about your feelings really worth not being connected to the outside world?

For me, it had to be. I was a danger to myself. I was always making depression and anxiety driven choices that often lead me hurt or fallen even more into the depression. I didn’t know how to control myself and it was just a matter of time before I was successful in my suicide attempts without the help I need.

Being in a mental asylum helped me go through very deep trauma and intensive therapy in a place where I could not hurt myself. I was surrounded by people in similar situations, which made me feel less alone in the fight. It helped me reshape my train of thought and create a better mental foundation, so now I am less likely to fall into the deep depression periods I was very prone to before. They helped me know myself better and understand why I am the way that I am and do the things that I do. Awareness of your problems creates less of those problems.  

I don’t recommend everybody go to mental asylum, but the people who want/need the help shouldn’t be afraid to take it, especially if it could be the difference between life and death. The facilities are not scary, dangerous, or dark, they are there to help you along side people who are just like you. Your experience may be different than mine, and that is OK! I just hope this blog helps you make a more informed decision on if you should attend one, and if you do, to do it without fear.

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