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What is a Mental Institution?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 17, 2024
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A mental institution is a broad term for any type of psychiatric care facility or psychiatric hospital. In fact, the term "mental institution" is not frequently used anymore; in general, psychiatric hospital is a preferred way to refer to this type of institution. This psychiatric care facility will provide inpatient care to individuals with mental illnesses or other mental health issues such as psychological disorders. The treatment period will vary for each individual depending on the severity of his or her condition, and the ways in which he is progressing in treatment or recovering.

Someone may voluntarily enter a mental institution to seek help. Other people may be involuntarily committed to a mental institution to receive treatment by a court, or if the person presents a danger to him or herself or others. Some people may only need to stay in the facility for a few days or weeks, while others may need longer term treatment of months, years, or even a lifetime. This determination will be made by the doctor or team of doctors who are treating the patient, as well as the patient if he or she entered the mental institution voluntarily.

Patients within a mental institution will have a number of rules and regulations that must be followed, both for their own safety, and for the safety of others. They will initially be assessed when entering the hospital, and a treatment plan will be determined. This treatment plan typically includes a mixture of individual therapy, group therapy, or medication. Some patients may also receive occupational therapy to help them successfully re-enter society and live independently or hold down a job. Of course, treatment plans will vary for each person depending on the condition for which he is being treated.

Once the doctor determines that the patient may leave the mental institution, he or she may continue to receive outpatient therapy in the form of talk therapy, medication, or both. Some people will never again need to enter a psychiatric facility, while others may find that they need further treatment as time goes by. A psychiatric care facility can be a good choice for people when outpatient therapy and medication is not working; it provides a more intensive process that can help people feel better much more quickly. Doctors can more easily monitor patients and their reactions to medications, and dosages can be immediately adjusted if needed.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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