You may not even be sure if hospitalization is really necessary. The following is meant to answer some of the questions that you may be having when making the difficult decision to commit someone to a mental hospital against his or her will.
When patients suddenly become confused
If your loved one is experiencing symptoms such as severe depression , suicidal urges, mania , or psychosis, this can have a devastating impact on the loved one and the people around him or her. Possible consequences can include suicide, physical harm to others, financial ruin, destroyed relationships, and the inability to take care of basic daily needs. Unfortunately, mental illness often makes the person unable to think clearly about his situation. It may be up to the people around him—such as family members, police, or mental health providers—to take the initiative to get help in order to prevent a tragic outcome.
The term "mentally ill" is not as clearly defined for legal purposes as it is in the treatment of mental illness. With the exception of Utah, none of the states uses a list of recognized mental disorders to define mental illness.
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Instead, the definition varies from state to state and is usually defined in rather vague terms describing how mental illness affects thinking and behavior. The definition of "grave disability" also varies from state to state. In general, it refers to a person's inability to take care of himself. The laws vary widely from state to state, but the person must be suffering from a mental illness to be committed.
Mental Illness Policy Org. While most states require that the person presents a clear and present danger to himself or others in order to be committed, this is not true for all states.
In some, involuntary hospitalization may occur if individuals are refusing needed treatment even though they are not considered to be dangerous. Emergency detentions, in which immediate psychiatric help is being sought, are usually initiated by family members or friends who have observed the person's behavior. Sometimes it's initiated by the police, although any adult could request emergency detention. The exact procedures vary by state, with many states requiring judicial approval or evaluation by a doctor confirming that the person meets the state's criteria for hospitalization.
Patients may also be admitted for what is known as observational institutionalization, in which hospital staff may observe the patient to determine a diagnosis and administer limited treatment. Application for this type of hospitalization can usually be made by any adult who has a reason to do so, but some states require that the application is made by a doctor or hospital personnel. And most require that an observational institutionalization receives the approval of the courts. The third type of hospitalization, extended commitment, is a bit more difficult to obtain.
Generally, it requires one or more persons from a specific group of people—such as friends, relatives, guardians, public officials, and hospital personnel—to apply for one. Often a certificate or affidavit from one or more physicians or mental health professionals describing the patient's diagnosis and treatment must accompany the application. Because the actual process varies by state, it is a good idea to consult a local expert who can educate you about your state's procedures. People best able to advise you include:.
If you believe that your loved one is in danger of hurting himself or others or is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call a crisis center or , or take the person to the nearest emergency room. How long does involuntary hospitalization last? Emergency detention is typically only for a short period, with the average being about three to five days. It can vary a bit by state, however, ranging from 24 hours in a few states to 20 days in New Jersey.
In the states that allow for observational commitment, the length of hospitalization can vary considerably, ranging from 48 hours in Alaska to six months in West Virginia.
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A typical length for extended commitment is up to six months. At the end of the initial period, an application can be made for the time to be extended, generally for one to two times longer than the original commitment. Requests can be made for further commitment when each period expires, as long as the patient continues to meet the legal criteria. Commitments for longer periods of time generally have more stringent requirements than an emergency detention, but again are for limited periods of time and cannot be extended without the proper procedures being followed.
Typically, the maximum length of long-term commitment is six months, after which a reassessment must be made before the commitment is extended. To learn more about your own state's laws regarding involuntary commitment, it may be helpful to consult the Treatment Advocacy Center , which provides a state-by-state review of all relevant laws.
A discussion about whether or not you can be committed for being depressed and suicidal wouldn't be complete without talking about what really happens if a person is hospitalized for depression. When simply talking about "commitment" it might sound almost like a prison sentence, but in actuality, when a commitment is considered the goal is to help a person, not restrict their rights as a human being.
It is not a punishment, but rather, usually shows compassion and caring on the part of the person talking about emergency detection. Certainly, this is not always the case, and this is where the involvement of a medical professional or judicial approval is important. Severe depression is, unfortunately, far too common. Being hospitalized for depression may be the best step in getting help before you make any decisions you could later regret. It is likely that these treatments are behind the finding that emergency detention for people with severe mental illness is associated with a lower mortality rate fewer deaths and an improvement in the quality of life for those who are committed.
The exact requirements, however, vary from state to state, as does the amount of time a person may be committed. To prevent commitment without just cause as could be the case in some situations, either the opinion of a medical professional or judicial approval is often also needed. Even if a person is committed short-term, they usually have the right to refuse treatments such as medications for psychiatric conditions other than those which are needed to calm a person or treat emergent medical conditions.
While emergency commitment can sound very frightening, the goal is to allow a person who is not coping well with mental illness to get the help needed to get past the crisis at hand. Everything feels more challenging when you're dealing with depression.
What Are Your Rights Regarding Hospitalization for Depression?
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Long-term Commitment. View All. Longer commitments are a different process with more stringent requirements. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Email Address Sign Up There was an error. What are your concerns? Article Sources.
Ravesteijin, B. JAMA Psychiatry.
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