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This is the blog for the Free Your Mind campaign which aims to battle stigma towards mental illness through the use of music, art, film, and culture.
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Monday, 11 October 2010

Psychiatric Wards 101: What it's Really Like Being Sectioned

When many people think of psychiatric wards they think of steel doors and padded rooms, when in reality the truth tells a different story. To enter a psychiatric hospital, a mentally ill person can go in voluntary, or, more often than not, they can be sectioned. I myself have been sectioned on four separate occasions in the past four years. However, you only want to be detained in a psychiatric hospital as a last resort.

When someone with a mental illness is sectioned, they are placed under a Section, which states the terms of their stay on the hospital ward. However, one can be taken off a Section, or have it prolonged by the ward psychiatrist during their time in hospital.

For you to be sectioned three people must agree that you need to be detained in a psychiatric hospital; there are, however, exceptions made in emergency situations. These three people would usually consist of: an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) or nearest relative, a doctor who has received special training and a registered medical practitioner.

A person can be detained for up to 28 days under a Section 2. An admission to hospital under this section is normally used when the patient has not been assessed in hospital before or when they have not been assessed in hospital for a considerable period of time.

An admission to a psychiatric hospital under a Section 3 can last for up to 6 months, but it is common for one to be discharged before this point. You can be detained under Section 3 if you are well known to the psychiatric services and there is little need for assessment.

My own experiences of psychiatric hospitals and their wards have been both negative and positive. (Note: there were no straight-jackets.) Every patient has their own room, there are communal areas, and most things are based on routine. You see the ward Doctor and have a meeting with them (known as "ward round") on the same day once-a-week, and meal times are also at the same time every day.

There are always staff on the wards at all times; some of whom, unfortunately, hold their own prejudices towards the patients and their mental illness.

Hospital wards often provide activities and therapies for the patients; including art therapy, occupational therapies and, even, massages.

Entering hospital for the first time can be frightening and very upsetting, but you do get used to things and you will usually find you adapt quickly.

The terms by which one can be sectioned under the mental health act are very confusing. But, as a patient, you wont usually have worry too much about it, unless you want to appeal. Being detained on a psychiatric ward can be scary, but you do get used to the routine.

I would love to hear your own experiences with psychiatric hospitals and wards.


  1. we all get sick one way or the other
    what if there was no mental hospitals
    they would be in chaines like the old days
    no one likes being in one but what you going to do

    1. Whilst I agree that psychiatric hospitals *are* a necessity; I *also* think that there's still a lot of progress to be made, in terms of improving these types of institutions.


  2. Hospital helped me but I got discharged for something that happened which was because of a mental health illness. I am a lot worse now and am not allowed in hospital again at the moment but its better to stick with community help even if you think hospital will help . I would go in again but the frame of mind I am in now I wouldn't I wouls rather be on my own xoxox

    1. Hello Anon.

      Sadly; your story is very familiar to me.

      It's awful that they have the power to do that -- disgusting, in fact!

      They are meant to be helping those who are ill, not criminalising them -- which they do all too often!

      I'm very sorry that this has happened to you.
      I know that with the ever-growing use of CTOs (Community Treatment Orders), along with the cuts in the NHS, beds in hospitals are limited; or, more likely, there are no beds free at all, anywhere.

      I agree that it is better to stick with the community help provided by charities and mental health teams.

      I can empathise with your situation, Anon.
      Get as much support as you can, whether that be from charities; community mental health teams; or, friends and family.
      Please take care of yourself.

      Best Regards,
      Nicola E.

  3. If you get sectioned for depression, are you allowed to see family or friends?

    1. Hi Bex.

      Yes you are allowed to see family and friends, during set visiting hours, when sectioned under the mental health act.

      Nikki. E

  4. Following-on from my post on the Eastbourne Tour (on the 'What is BPD' post), seeing as it is more relevant here, I remember calculating a trip to BH, and took a train to Eastbourne railway station at 1730 on Friday 19 December, 2008, and it got about £25 from Strood to E'bourne. The whole way there, I was extremely agitated; upon arriving, I remember, I went to a pub near a lighthouse, had a quick pint, and then went and a wonder around, for a good hour, until the chaplain 'god loves you lots' people turned-up flashing a Poundland torch.

    I was taken into a hut, and had a cup of tea. The Sussex Police were called, and, the 'Police To Complete Appendix 2, MHA 1983, Handover Form' says: "Call from chaplains at Beachy Head. He was found in the pub [pretty sure pub was before wandering] and told staff he had travelled from Kent to commit suicide. On police arrival, he continued to talk about suicide because he lost his job today. Detained 136 MHA"

    I remember the drive to the EDGH was quite a nice one, very scenic, actually.

    Overall, I thought that SP's opinion of MH is a pretty poor one. More recent experiences of them, partly for that reason, has led me to lodge complaints with the IPCC. I think they were pretty bored of coming out to see person-after-person, and then they checked my passport (I chucked bank card / driving licence, etc, over BH, only being left with passport) and asked why I had it. I informed them it was so I could be identified. They looked horrified.

    In-short, the police require more training on MH and certainly ASC; which is seriously lacking throughout forces I have dealt with.

  5. i was behind steel doors for 3 - 4 months in a concrete room in the last 2 years.

    1. Why was that? Were you in that room for the entire duration of your stay in hospital?

      That sounds very extreme!

  6. They sound like a troll who finds mental health issues amusing.

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