A lot of what I do both for myself and for my peers is hospital prevention. I would not feel such a pressing need to prevent hospitalizations if they were more ethical, therapeutic experiences AND if they were not so expensive. Even with insurance, expect to pay a few thousand dollars.
"What is it that you get from the hospital that makes you want to go?" I asked someone a few days ago. The answer was, "attention."
I go to the hospital because I want mental health attention too. With hospital prevention, it is important to realize the benefits of a hospital to see if you can get those same needs met in another way. One may or may not get adequate mental health attention in a hospital. One may or may not need more mental health attention AFTER the hospitalization because of post-hospital PTSD.
So, what can a person do?
First, realize that needing attention is not bad. People with physical health challenges need attention all the time and rarely get shamed for it. Figure out what kind of attention you need, and then go after it, unashamed. This is much easier to do with someone else's help.
Make a WRAP plan! WRAP stands for Wellness Recovery Action Plan and is where you make a plan of how you will stay well, and also how you will handle every bump in your recovery journey. You detail what a crisis looks like for you and then you write down what YOU want to happen, so that a crisis will not be worse than it needs to be. "Take me here, not there... Give me this, not that..." I am currently rewriting my own. A certified peer specialist can help you make one (we have a WRAP activity where I work every Thursday) or you can create it yourself or with your therapist.
Call a warmline for peer support - attend a support group - schedule outings with understanding friends - go to respite at a peer center - schedule more frequent appointments with doctors and/or therapists and/or nutritionists - learn how to self soothe yourself - create art - journal - have a PLAN
I had a conversation with someone else who kept saying that they would rather sleep outside than in a shelter-a sentiment I've heard before. People long for peace and safe spaces, especially in early recovery, especially after just getting discharged from a chaotic hospital. I know a fair amount of people who have opted to sleep in an alleyway rather than the triggers of a shelter. It's funny-in a sad way-how hospitals and shelters are not peaceful places-people would get better so much faster if deescalation and validation techniques were used instead of yelling and slamming doors.
I was filled with so much emotion when I got home that I wrote several poems. The end of the first poem spells LOVE, which is what we follow on the warmline - Listen, ask Open ended questions, Validate, and Empathize. The poems are a little cheesy, but they're a good representation of what I do and how I feel about my work.
Attention Seeking Is Not Inherently Bad
It is natural to want and need attention.
Attention seeking is not inherently bad.
But beware of the hospital lure-
(More trauma, less cure)
Call a friend - call a peer - call a warmline -
Say, “Hey! I need a hug, I feel bad.”
The hospital offers no warm embrace.
Ride the emotion wave with me,
Let us be each other’s grace.
“I feel hopeless and lonely.”
“I’ve felt that way too but it passes.”
I can Listen, be Open, Validate, Empathize
Together, we are wise
I'd Rather Sleep Outside
“I’d rather sleep outside than in a shelter-
All I want is peace.”
No chaos for me-
No doctor, no bed
No pill, no med
Replace the "I" with "we"
I am more kin with night owls and butterflies
With prowling cats and homeless sighs
Than those wearing the savior mask in disguise.
You call it a shelter, but at night my heart cries.
Emotional abuse is still abuse
Triggers, needles and weapons
I must run away from here
I need peace for my soul
I won't dig my own hole
I follow peer love, not fear.
(Note: I'm not against medication - the poem is just a reflection of some of the conversations I've had with peers lately.)
I also recently completed a NAMI "End The Silence" program, which is a presentation for teens, parents, and teachers about mental health awareness and suicide prevention. I thought I'd share a few bits from the application.