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What is it Like Inside of a Pediatric Psychiatric Ward?

Two years ago, I sat in the emergency room of Fairview Hospital at night, crying while experiencing the worst panic attack of my life. I was soon brought back to a room with a hospital bed and was asked a series of questions to help the psychologists and doctors determine what should happen next. In just a matter of time, I was whisked off through underground passageways to the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Ward of the hospital.

Although I had asked my mother if I could go to the hospital to help deal with my chronic anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the tears came faster when I realized that she could not stay with me and that my close family could only visit for a few hours each day.

I entered the Ward and was greeted with near silence. A few people sat at a central desk, but the glassed-in room adjacent to it was dark and unoccupied. I saw no children, only doors with numbers that lined the walls. My room, as I later found out, was two doors down from the activity room.

The rooms were odd. For my room, at least, there was a small bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower, to the left of the entrance. Around the corner stood a bed and a set of shelves for my things when my mother brought them later. The walls were a simple, creamy white. Of course, I did not take any of this in when I first arrived; all I could do was climb in bed and cry myself to sleep as my mom left.

The next morning I was almost just as anxious as I had been the day before. It was past breakfast time, and the other kids were all divided into groups doing activities. I quickly ate some cereal and was escorted to a room where boys and girls my age were reading a depressing poem and were asked to discuss it. It set my anxiety off again, and I had to leave, crying as I did so.

I talked to one of the doctors there about what I was feeling and we walked around the Ward. Eventually, I went to take a shower, but not until after answering that I promised my designated, personal doctor that “he could trust me” not to hurt myself.

Things calmed down after that, especially since I got to see my parents during visiting hours. By the next day, I was participating in different group activities. We did arts and crafts, played Mario Kart and Just Dance on the Wii, and watched movies. During our designated “down times,” I requested to have music played in my room, since the ladies at the front desk would turn on any radio station you wanted.

The psychiatrists there tried out some different medications on me, and it took until I got out of the hospital for one to stick, but it was eventually a great help. I now continue to see one of those psychiatrists every year to check in.

There were certain rituals that took place daily. Every morning we had to fill out a “goal” sheet, where we wrote down what we hoped to accomplish that day with regards to our mental health. Every patient also had to have their vitals checked every afternoon, and we had to check off what food we wanted for each meal the next day. This was easily the best part, because I could order as much dessert and pasta as my heart desired.

Some rules that were put in place to protect the patients were a little different, but understandable. We were not allowed to talk to other children outside of the activity and dining rooms or swap phone numbers with them. In addition, when I asked my mom to bring in makeup so that I could put some on for fun, the doctors had to go through it to make sure there was nothing in my cosmetics that I could use to hurt myself. For that same reason, clothing with strings was also usually banned.

Once in a while the Ward got loud because some of the younger kids were there due to anger issues or hyperactive disorders. For the most part, however, things were pretty mellow, especially considering the majority of people were there for chronic depression.

Although I was only there for four days, my overall impression was fairly positive. Pretty much all the kids got along, and the doctors were unbelievably kind, since many of them had gone through similar issues as their parents. I got the medicine I needed and the break from life that was required to get my mentality back together. Also, don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise: hospital food is pretty good.

 

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