A stay in a psychiatric facility can be life-saving.
But it can also be frightening, lonely, and/or simply boring.
During my stay in a psychiatric unit, I often felt all of the above.
I know from talking to my family after my stay that they felt helpless and unsure of what to do to support me during this time. It was a time of uncertainty for all of us – we had no idea what to expect or how to handle the situation we were in.
As for me, I was stuck there. There was nothing I could do. Psychiatric facilities are often cold, clinical places, and you’re heavily restricted as to what you can do and what you can have whilst in there.
I’ve put together a small list of things that I know I would have appreciated during my time in a psychiatric hospital.
As I said, each facility has restrictions on what can and cannot be brought in, so make sure you check with them before attempting to bring any of the items listed below.
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Spending time in a psychiatric facility leaves you with a lot of time alone with your thoughts. It can be helpful to have something to distract you and take your mind off things, even if only for a short while.
- Magazines: Good for flicking through, magazines don’t require much concentration but they’re entertaining enough.
- Books: If your loved one likes reading, bringing them a couple of books will be appreciated. You could choose something related to mental health that might be beneficial to their recovery, or just something in a genre they like, so they can relax into another world for a while.
- Colouring book/colouring pens: This is a good one for distraction and provides a feeling of accomplishment once the piece is finished.
I know from experience that the food in psychiatric facilities can be less than appetising. Bringing your loved one the odd treat may mean more than you know.
- A bar of chocolate: Obviously not the healthiest option, but a nice treat for once in a while.
- Fresh fruit: The healthier option, refreshing, and makes sure your loved one is getting enough fruit in their diet during their stay.
Psychiatric hospitals are not comfortable. We’re already unwell and it can be incredibly difficult to get adequate rest when you’re uncomfortable.
- Pyjamas/Slippers/Dressing gown: Cosy nightwear can make all the difference when you’re in a strange place, trying to sleep.
- A blanket that smells like home: As I mentioned before, the beds in psychiatric units are very clinical and cold, creating or exacerbating sleep problems. Having a soft blanket that smells like home can be very comforting and soothing.
Personal hygiene and grooming
Maintaining good personal hygiene and grooming routines is crucial to recovery. When in the depths of mental illness, it can be one of the first things to fall apart. A way of encouraging and supporting with this can be to provide some nice toiletries and grooming products.
- Shampoo/Conditioner/Body wash: Although the facility might provide basic toiletries, chances are they will be very basic. Having some good quality bathing products might just inspire your loved one to take care of themselves a little better than they had previously been managing.
- A toothbrush/toothpaste: Another basic, but dental health is still important.
- A hairbrush: I know when I was in a psychiatric facility, I didn’t have a hairbrush, and thus my hair became a horrible, matted mess. A simple thing like a hairbrush can make a huge difference.
Obviously, these are not the only items you can bring to your loved one – after all, you know them best. The point is, if we can help to make their stay as comfortable (or at least bearable) as possible, it provides crucial support towards their ongoing recovery.
Do you have experience of staying in a psychiatric facility? What things helped (or would have helped) you during this time? Let me know in the comments.