If you are being admitted to a psychiatric unit, you are understandably under a lot of stress. It’s stressful being admitted to the hospital for any reason, but if you’re being admitted for depression or other emotional problems, well, the stress is only amplified. If this is your first time being admitted, you’re probably wondering what to pack.
You should know that psychiatric units usually have strict rules about what you can and can’t have on the unit. The rules are usually about safety. Nothing sharp or breakable will be allowed, for instance, because they don’t want people to hurt themselves or anyone else. The rules may vary somewhat from hospital to hospital, so while we can give you some general guidelines, you might want to call ahead to the hospital where you’re going to be admitted and ask about their rules.
Here are the basics, though:
Generally patients on psychiatric units wear their own clothes, not hospital gowns. After all, you’re not going to be confined to bed, you’ll be up and around on the unit. Pack a few days’ worth of clothing. Don’t take anything fancy or expensive. The unit may be cool, so you might want to take a sweater or sweatshirt in case you get cold. Even though you might be in the hospital for a week or two, you only need to take a few days’ worth of clothes. They’ll have laundry facilities there that you can use.
Don’t take belts. They don’t want people to hang themselves, so they won’t let you keep them. They probably also won’t let you have shoelaces, so take slip-on shoes. Don’t take any valuable jewelry.
Take basic toiletries like toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, and hairbrush. If you forget any of the necessities, they should be able to give you some, but it’s nice to have your own. You don’t need to take a lot of cosmetics. There won’t be much point in dressing up, after all. Don’t take any cosmetics in glass bottles or containers.
You won’t be able to keep hair dryers or curling irons in your room, but if you must use these, there will probably be a central area where you will be allowed to use them, like by the nursing station. They should have a locker or other area to keep belongings like these secure for you. The same goes with electric razors. If you shave with a straight razor, you’ll have to do it under supervision. Many women just skip shaving while they’re in the hospital.
It’s a good idea to take along something to do, like books or magazines, crossword puzzle books, or a deck of cards. There will be some activities on the unit, but you’ll probably have a fair amount of free time. However, they probably will not allow you to have things like cell phones, laptop computers, handheld video games, or walkman stereos. If you are interested in taking any of these things, you should call ahead and ask. Don’t take any spiral-bound notebooks or journals. The wires are sharp and you probably won’t be allowed to have them. You can take pens or pencils.
You will need little or no money. Most psychiatric units do not provide telephones in patient rooms, but instead provide phones for patient use in a central area. These may be free phones or payphones. If they are payphones, you’ll either need some change or a calling card. A calling card is probably easier to deal with.
There may be vending machines on the unit for snacks and soft drinks, and there may be a gift shop in the hospital you can visit for snacks, magazines, and toiletries. If so, you may want a small amount of cash for that purpose. Don’t take large amounts of cash, though, and don’t take credit cards. Leave your checkbook at home, too.
When you arrive on the unit, a staff person will go through your belongings to make sure you don’t have anything that is not allowed. If you do bring something you shouldn’t, you can just send it home with a family member or friend. If for some reason you can’t send the item or items home, the hospital should have a place to secure your belongings for you until discharge.