I remember the intake process, which was lengthy. I endured several comprehension, medical, and personal tests. The staff wanted to know everything- my childhood experiences, schooling, knowledge of my mental illness, the reason I was there - EVERYTHING!
In the hospital, we were provided three meals a day with flexible diets if stated - vegetarian, no pork, low sodium, etc. We earned points by good behavior- going to classes, cleaning our room, dressing in an appropriate manner, and doing whatever we were supposed to. The points went toward a store where we could purchase candy, accessories, and other items.
Whenever someone got into trouble they would lose their freedom to accept visits, go outside, socialize with others by staying in a private room, use their points for the store, or participate in additional activities or meetings. Sometimes if someone where out of control they would be trapped to a bed, or transferred to another unit.
In addition to mandatory classes and conferences with the treatment team, some of the activities included: Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, church, visits to the library, talent shows, or cookouts. The class load was diverse- exercise, learning about mental health, learning about the court system, art classes, etc. The classes were taught by health care professionals - psychologists, social workers, counselors, etc. The conferences were meetings with our treatment team to decipher if we were ready to be discharged from the hospital and return to jail to complete court hearings.
I remember when I was in the hospital my anxiety level was high. I did not like being around large groups, sometimes I preferred to stay in my room. I remember being bored a lot, to pass the time I would read, write, or exercise.
I stayed active and out of trouble. I participated in just about all the activities- even the talent show! A peer, a nurse, and myself danced to a hip hop song, it was fun. At the end everyone got a prize, we were provided a large box with various items in it- candy, smell goods, etc. to choose from.
My peers were well mannered for the most part, nobody wanted their freedoms taken from them, however, there were some that caused problems, which occasionally ruined it for all of us.
Overall, my experience was not bad. I went to the state hospital to get better and to learn more about my mental illness, which I did. It was at the California State Hospital where I received an official mental health diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. I remember my doctor discussing some of the symptoms with me and telling me that I can still go back to college and lead a fulfilling life. This gave me hope...
What are your thoughts on this?
To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).