When I was institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital, something that they encouraged us to do was join the military. I was shocked. Here I was sitting in a room with 9 other kids, most of which were suicidal and underprivileged, and they were trying to convince us to join the military of all occupations.
Military suicide rates are roughly 20% to 25% higher than civilian suicide rates.
When you’re in a place like that, it’s easy to feel like you’re some crazy kid that needs to be locked up. I wanted to be a doctor. When I told them this, they would smile and nod, but I knew that they didn’t really believe I could do it. I could imagine how, working there for a while, they could lose hope in the future of their patients. I, myself, would look around and wonder who out of us would even survive till adulthood, let alone prosper. It’s fear that motivates me. Adulthood still seems like a big “what if.”
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers.
The first hospital I was at wasn’t too bad. We watched TV, listened to rap on the radio, slept, had group, colored, and played games all day. No fights broke out and no one had to be restrained. We did have a doctor though that everyone hated. She told patients to kill themselves to see “how strong we were.”
Mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder are the #1 cause of hospitalization for kids age 1 to 17. Suicidal tendencies, thoughts, and attempts are common and often deadly symptoms of these disorders.
I wondered when the “making-me-not-suicidal” part would happen. They hopped us up on a bunch of medication, but no medicine is a cure all. I left suicidal.
7.5% of kids between the ages of 6-17 are on psychotropic prescription drugs.
Many of my friends there had drug problems. My roommate left the same day as me, except she went to rehab. I kept in touch with my buddies from the hospital. Some things got better, but when one of my friends asked if anyone had actually gotten better, it was a resounding “no.” This was supported by one of my friends temporarily homeless, two pregnancies, one miscarriage, and several of us, including me, readmitted to another hospital. We didn’t hear from my roommate in months after she went to rehab. When she got out she didn’t remember any of us.
15% of patients with mood disorders get readmitted within 30 days.
I hated the second hospital. Fist fights broke out daily, sometimes more than once. Almost everyone there had been previously hospitalized. This hospital accepted very young kids as well as teens. The youngest kid I met was 11 and in 5th grade. She was hospitalized for hallucinations and it was her first time in the hospital. She was so sweet. Another girl, her original roommate, was also 11 and in foster care. She had experience in hospitals. She stayed almost as long as I did.We also had a few 12 and 13 year olds come in. One girl cried nonstop until she was released. It was always sad to see the kids come in, because they all missed their family and were scared of all the fighting.
According to one study, roughly half of kids hospitalized for mental health are 14 or younger.
We were heavily censored in speech. If we said the wrong thing we were “given a consequence.” They sat there and listened to your phone calls with your folks and took notes, so you couldn’t say anything. They would give you a consequence for every little thing. You would get in trouble for smiling, dancing, singing, or laughing if you did it at the wrong time which was usually. I stayed in the “acute” section over a month because I didn’t have anywhere to go back to.
40-80% of youth in foster care have serious mental health issues.
When they transferred a person to residential, they essentially got accepted based on how many rules they break. If you broke a lot of rules, they made your life Hell, enforcing your need and dependence on helping you. I learned to stay out of as much trouble as possible. I would break rules without getting caught and I knew which shifts I could get away with what. I was on the highest level in our level system and I was the only person on level on both halls because I loved getting my food first, getting free things from the point store, and staying up later more than I loved life. So I didn’t get admitted to residential even if I probably should have.
Over 3,470 high schoolers attempt suicide each day.
The place you usually go to before you even get admitted to acute is the IVC, or involuntary care unit, and it’s soul crushing. They keep you in a hospital room alone 24/7 with a camera in the corner constantly monitoring you. They gave me green papering scrubs and hospital socks. If you needed to use the bathroom, you had to get escorted by 2 or 3 people. It made me feel like a prisoner, and police escorts to and from didn’t help. The first time I went was ordered by a cop who said I was disrespectful. Even if you haven’t broken a law, if you’re mentally ill and anger a cop, you’re still going away. This stay makes sure you’re essentially suicidal enough for the main hospital. I went to sleep to the sound of screaming every night from this elderly woman who had been there for two months. (I can’t even imagine.)
1 in 100 people have schizophrenia worldwide, with prevalence increasing with age. Two-thirds of cases become chronic.
I would often think about the impact the hospitals have on us. The longer you stay, the crazier you feel. You become almost numb to screaming matches, fist fights, and seeing people sedated and restrained. One time at lunch we had to sit there in silence listening to a girl in residential scream like she was being tortured. I watched as the tears rolled down my roommates face. She had basically grown up in hospitals.
8% of Americans have PTSD; which is equal to the population of Texas.
This recurrence of hospital stays made me realize that hospitals, along with juvenile detention centers, are where society puts away kids that they failed and didn’t want to deal with anymore. So they take us out of schools and neighborhoods and shelter us away from the rest of the world. When I got out, I was completely disoriented. I hesitated before doorframes because we had to ask to leave our rooms and couldn’t linger in doorways. Whenever I saw games like dodgeball or kickball I would think about rec therapy. I would start to laugh and quickly stifle it for fear of getting in trouble.
67% to 70% of youth in juvenile detention centers have a mental health disorder.
Maybe instead of sticking kids in hospitals so we don’t have to think about or deal with them, you can actually provide them the care and support they need in their lives. Because once we get out, our lives are gonna be just as crappy as they were before. If you are a friend or family member of someone who is mentally ill, look at how you are impacting their lives. Maybe the next generation won’t have these problems and can finally, as a lot of people ignorantly say; “just be a kid.”