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When Hospitalization Is Needed for Depression

What Are Your Rights Regarding Hospitalization for Depression? continued...

During an emergency, a health care professional or police officer may require you to be evaluated at a hospital. Once there, a hospital doctor will talk to you and decide whether you actually need to be hospitalized. While the doctor has the final say whether you get admitted, friends or family members can advocate for your case. If a doctor believes that involuntary hospitalization is necessary, the hospital has the right to evaluate your condition usually for several days before needing to have a judge decide whether ongoing involuntary hospitalization and medications or other treatments can be administered against your will.  

The length of your stay is determined by the staff based on your clinical condition, although insurance companies can independently decide if they no longer believe continued hospitalization is medically necessary. In this situation, they may refuse to pay for ongoing treatment in the hospital. If your doctor disagrees with an insurance company's decision to refuse to pay for ongoing treatment, the doctors typically will appeal their decision. If the doctors no longer think that you are in danger, you will be released within two to seven days, depending on the laws in your state. If you disagree with the hospital's assessment, you can ask to speak with a mental hygiene lawyer in order to request that a judge rule on the need for ongoing involuntary hospitalization. Talk to your state's Protection and Advocacy agency.

When in the hospital, you may face restrictions designed to keep you and other patients safe. Even if you are admitted to the hospital on a voluntary basis, you may not be able to leave whenever you want. The hospital may strictly control visits from family and friends and limit the items you can take in with you like cell phones or laptop computers. Sharp objects like razors that you may bring with you will usually be kept by staff in a safe place, and you may be asked to not wear shoe laces or belts. You may be on a locked ward for at least some of your stay. You may also be expected to follow a certain schedule. While the restrictions can be hard to accept, keep in mind that they are in place for the safety of you and the other patients.

Some health insurance policies will cover hospitalization for a limited amount of time. Others won't cover it at all. Before a person can be hospitalized, some insurers require that he or she be evaluated by an evaluator under contract with their company. Very few insurers will cover a hospital stay for depression that isn't an emergency.

While in the hospital you will usually be seen by one or more psychiatrists or a physician's assistant daily, although such one-on-one visits in the hospital tend to be brief.  Formal individual psychotherapy generally doesn't occur while in the hospital, although various forms of group therapy are common, focusing on strategies such as stress management, coping with depression, and discussions about medications and their side effects.

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