Psych Wards: The Good, The Bad, and The Misunderstood

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on September 8, 2023
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When you hear the term ‘psych ward,’ what images come to mind?

Is it a place of healing and support, or does it bring to mind scenes from movies filled with dramatic and often harmful misrepresentations?

The Online Mental Health Review Team is uniquely qualified to delve into psychiatric patients and wards due to their comprehensive knowledge and experience in mental health and practical experience with online psychiatry platforms and mental health services.

In today’s post, we’re looking to shed some light on what psych wards are, debunk some common misconceptions about psychiatric units, and explore their role in mental health care.

What Are Psych Wards?

Psychiatric wards, often known as psych wards, are hospital departments where individuals with mental health conditions are treated. They provide a safe environment and facility for patients with severe mental illnesses requiring immediate attention and care.

Contrary to popular belief, psych wards are not intended to be places of punishment or confinement. Instead, they aim to provide necessary psychiatric treatment and stabilization, helping individuals regain control of their lives.

The Good: Benefits of Psych Wards

Psych wards offer a range of resources and therapeutic options to assist individuals in managing their mental health issues. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Variety of Therapies: Psych wards offer different types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and art therapy tailored to each individual’s needs.
  • Supportive Environment: They provide a supportive and compassionate environment where individuals can focus solely on their recovery without the distractions and stresses of daily life.
  • Professional Staff: Psych wards are staffed by trained mental health professionals who can provide immediate care and treatment.
  • Safety: For those experiencing severe mental health crises, psych wards can provide a safe, monitored environment to prevent harm to themselves or others.

What are the cons of a mental hospital?

Understanding the potential drawbacks of various mental health hospitals and hospitals is essential to making informed decisions about your care.

  • Potential for Trauma: In some cases, the experience of being in a mental hospital can be traumatic, often due to feelings of isolation or lack of control.
  • Stigma: A societal stigma associated with psychiatric hospitalization can lead to self-esteem issues and social isolation.
  • Cost: Mental hospitals can be expensive, and not all insurance plans cover the full cost of treatment.
  • Limited Privacy: Inpatient treatment often involves shared spaces, which can limit privacy and personal space.
  • Disruption of Daily Routine: Being in a mental hospital can disrupt regular routines and responsibilities, such as work, school, or family commitments.
  • Depersonalization: Some patients feel depersonalized due to the institutional nature of mental hospitals.

The Bad: Misconceptions and Misrepresentations

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Despite these benefits, psych wards often have a negative reputation. This is mainly due to misinformation, stigma, and their depiction in media. Movies and TV shows often portray psych wards as places of horror and mistreatment of patients, which is far from reality.

Historically, there has been poor care and abuse in community mental health institutions. These unfortunate events led to widespread institutionalization and a negative perception of these facilities. However, it’s important to note that these do not reflect modern psychiatric care (for the most part, but there are severe downsides to modern care as well).

Depressed and Locked in a Psychiatric Hospital

The Change: Improved Care and Advocacy

Over the years, policy, procedures, and strong advocacy changes have significantly improved the care provided in psych wards and private hospitals. Increased regulations, patient rights, and a greater understanding of mental health have all contributed to these advancements.

Moreover, advocacy groups, doctors, and individuals sharing their personal experiences have played a significant role in debunking myths and reducing the stigma associated with psych wards.

What happens in a mental hospital?

Understanding Self-Admission to a Mental Hospital
  • Intake Process: Upon arrival, patients undergo an intake process, including providing medical history and current symptoms.
  • Evaluation: A treatment team of mental health professionals conducts a comprehensive review to determine the best course of treatment.
  • Personalized Treatment Plan: Each patient receives a customized treatment plan, encompassing therapy, medication, and other appropriate interventions.
  • Therapy Sessions: Patients participate in various forms of therapy, including individual, group, and family therapy sessions.
  • Medication Management: Regular reviews and adjustments are made to ensure its effectiveness and manage any side effects.
  • Safety Measures: To ensure patient safety, certain restrictions are in place, such as no door handles to prevent self-harm.
  • Discharge Planning: Before leaving, a discharge plan includes follow-up appointments and ongoing treatment recommendations.

What are the negative outcomes of psychiatric hospitalization?

Let’s delve into some potential negative outcomes of psychiatric hospitalization to help you make informed decisions about your care.

  • Potential for Rehospitalization: Some individuals may experience a revolving door phenomenon, where they are repeatedly admitted and discharged, which can be distressing and disruptive.
  • Post-Hospital Syndrome: This refers to a period of vulnerability after discharge where patients may experience health issues unrelated to the reason for hospitalization.
  • Stigma and Discrimination: Patients can face stigma and discrimination from society, and even friends and family, post-hospitalization.
  • Strained Relationships: The hospitalization process can place significant stress on personal relationships, which may lead to tension or estrangement.
  • Employment Challenges: Returning to work after hospitalization can be difficult due to workplace stigma or employment gaps.
  • Financial Strain: The cost of hospitalization can lead to financial difficulties, especially if the individual cannot work during their stay.

Does the psych ward cause trauma?


While psychiatric wards provide critical care for many, it’s essential to understand that these environments can sometimes contribute to trauma.

Here’s an exploration of how and why this can occur:

  • Involuntary Hospitalization: Involuntary commitment to a psych ward can be a traumatic experience, often due to feelings of loss of control or freedom.
  • Hierarchy of Patients: Some patients may suffer from the perception of being labeled as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ patient, creating additional stress.
  • Interaction with Staff and Other Patients: Negative experiences with staff or other patients can contribute to trauma during a stay in a psych ward.
  • Intensifying Pre-existing Difficulties: Psych wards can sometimes exacerbate pre-existing mental health issues, adding to the overall trauma.
  • Fear and Emotional Instability: The intimidating atmosphere of psychiatric facilities can cause anxiety and long-term emotional instability.

What is the dark side of a psychiatric hospital?

As we strive to shed light on our mental illness and health awareness, it’s equally important to acknowledge and understand the darker aspects of psychiatric hospitals that are often hidden from public view.

  1. Overcrowding: Some psychiatric hospitals suffer from overcrowding, leading to increased patient stress and reduced quality of care.
  2. Stigma and Discrimination: Patients in psychiatric hospitals often face stigma and discrimination, both within the hospital and from the outside world.
  3. Inadequate Staff Training: Some hospitals may not provide sufficient training for their staff, leading to poor patient care and potential mishandling of crises.
  4. Lack of Personal Freedom: Patients can experience a loss of personal freedom and autonomy due to restrictive hospital policies.
  5. Medication Overuse: Over-reliance on medication as the primary form of treatment can lead to side effects and overlook the importance of outpatient therapy and holistic approaches.
  6. Seclusion and Restraint Practices: These controversial practices are still used in some institutions and can traumatize patients.
  7. Inadequate Aftercare: Discharge planning and aftercare services are often insufficient, leaving patients vulnerable once they leave the hospital.

Why are there no handles in psych wards?

The design of a psychiatric ward often seems unusual to outsiders, but every detail, including the lack of door handles, is purposefully designed with patient safety in mind.

  1. Suicide Prevention: The absence of door handles is a crucial measure to prevent suicide attempts, as handles can be used to tie objects.
  2. Anti-Ligature Hardware: Psychiatric wards use anti-ligature hardware, including door fixtures, to minimize self-harm risks.
  3. Standard Precautions: Just like hooks on walls or hand sanitizer dispensers, door knobs and handles are often excluded to prevent potential misuse.
  4. Clothing Restrictions: Similar to why patients are asked to remove laces and belts, door handles are eliminated to reduce self-harm opportunities.
  5. Hang-Proof Design: Many psychiatric hospitals and wards have hang-proof knobs and fixtures that cannot be used for hanging.
  6. Criticism of Institutional Feel: Some critics argue that such measures contribute to a prison-like environment in psychiatric wards.

What is head banging in psych wards?

Journal Prompts for Self-Love: A Journey Towards a Better You

Headbanging in psychiatric wards is a severe behavioral concern that requires understanding and empathetic intervention.

  1. Self-Harm Behavior: Head banging is often a form of self-harm, where patients may hit their heads against walls or other hard surfaces to cope with emotional distress.
  2. Coping Mechanism: For some, it can serve as a coping mechanism, physically expressing internal pain or frustration.
  3. Attention-Seeking: Sometimes, head banging can be an attention-seeking behavior, signaling that the individual needs help or intervention.
  4. Communication Tool: Sometimes, it may be a non-verbal way of communicating emotional distress or unmet needs.
  5. Symptom of a Disorder: Head banging can also be a symptom of various mental health disorders, including autism spectrum disorder, self-injurious behavior (SIB), and others.
  6. Response to Medication: Sometimes, it may be a side effect or reaction to certain medications.

Is it wrong that I want to go to a psych ward?

: The Journey Toward Mental Wellness: Understanding Therapy Goals

The desire to seek help in a psychiatric facility or ward is not inherently evil; it’s a sign that you recognize a need for professional mental health support, a crucial step toward healing.

  1. Acknowledging the Need for Help: Wanting to go to a psych ward indicates that you understand the severity of your situation and are willing to seek professional help.
  2. Safety and Supervision: Psychiatric wards provide a safe environment with constant supervision.

Are Psych Wards Bad? Conclusion

Psych wards are an essential part of our mental health care system. While they have had their share of challenges, their role in providing immediate, professional help for individuals in crisis cannot be understated.

It’s time to move past the misconceptions and acknowledge their vital role in many people’s journey to recovery.

You may learn more about psych wards through our articles covering costs, rehab, costs with insurance, patients, grippy socks, and psych ward memes.

Finally, we’d appreciate your thoughts! Suggest a mental health software you think the Online Mental Health Reviews platform should review next. Our team would love to hear about your experience!

If your organization is considering a mental health tool, please email us to request a review. If appropriate, we will secret shop the service your organization wants to learn more about and leave a comprehensive review.

If You Are In Crisis

If you find yourself in a mental health crisis, seeking immediate help is crucial – waiting for an online therapy session may not be sufficient. If there’s a risk of harm to yourself or others, please dial 911 without delay. Should you be battling suicidal thoughts or of self-harm, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available around the clock at 988, ready to provide support.

You may want to try virtual urgent care via Sesame Care or DrHouse for non-emergency but still urgent situations.

Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) operates a free, confidential helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357), offering information about treatment options for mental health and substance abuse disorders 24/7, every day of the year.

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