What is a Psychiatric Hospital?

Amanda R. Bell

A psychiatric hospital is a facility that treats patients with severe mental illnesses or disorders. The sizes of these facilities vary and many offer both inpatient and outpatient care; some also function as research or teaching facilities. A psychiatric hospital is typically staffed by medical professionals experienced in treating mental illness. These facilities may be funded privately or by the government.

Psychiatric hospitals may employ security guards.
Psychiatric hospitals may employ security guards.

Patients with a variety of different mental health issues often receive treatment at a psychiatric hospital. This kind of facility typically offers individual and group therapy options and emergency mental health care. The hospital often manages a patient's medications and may provide long term care for the severely disabled. The illnesses treated range from severe depression to schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder.

Psychiatric hospitals treat individuals with mental disorders.
Psychiatric hospitals treat individuals with mental disorders.

Many psychiatric hospitals also act as teaching facilities to train future medical professionals in mental health treatment. A psychiatrist often completes his or her residency in one of these hospitals. In some instances, especially with larger psychiatric hospitals, research into mental illnesses and treatment may also be part of the program.

Psychiatric hospitals may be privately funded.
Psychiatric hospitals may be privately funded.

A psychiatric hospital may be large with an equally sizable staff, similar to a standard hospital, or it may be relatively small. The majority of these facilities offer short term and long term residential care as well as outpatient treatment. Short term care is usually reserved for those who need emergency care to stabilize their condition that typically lasts for a week or less. Long term care is often reserved for those who are considered a threat to themselves or others or who cannot take care of themselves. Outpatient treatment is for people who require psychiatric care but who are still able to function in daily life and among society.

Other than the typical hospital administrative staff, a psychiatric hospital is usually staffed by psychiatrists, therapists, nurses specializing in mental health, and social workers. Facilities that provide short and long term residential care also often have general practitioners on site to tend to the overall health of the patients. These types of facilities tend to employ nutritionists, physical therapists and, in secure facilities, security guards. Due to the sensitive nature of treating patients with mental health issues, support staff at a psychiatric hospital typically require training in dealing with patients even if no direct contact is expected.

Many major hospitals, especially those affiliated with colleges, have a psychiatric hospital in the network. The facility may be privately funded. Most countries also have government run psychiatric hospitals; these are the facilities that patients who are involuntarily committed are often placed in. Extremely secure psychiatric hospitals may also be government run and provide long term care for those deemed to be criminally insane.

Individuals who are planning or threatening suicide are often put on suicide watch in a psychiatric hospital.
Individuals who are planning or threatening suicide are often put on suicide watch in a psychiatric hospital.

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