There is a relatively common fear among the mentally ill of involuntary hospitalization. It is perfectly reasonable for anyone to fear the loss of their freedom of movement and choice without any real say in the matter. In relation to Bipolar Disorder specifically, the fear can easily get exploded out of proportion in a mentally ill person’s mind. Remember, Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder, which primarily affects emotions, and fear is most certainly an emotion.
The best way to combat this fear, whether you are mentally ill yourself or the loved one of a mentally ill person who fears it, is to arm yourself with the knowledge of the process and requirements for involuntary hospitalization in your local area. In the United States, involuntary hospitalization follows proof that the person poses a real and imminent threat to themselves or other people.
The best way to double check this is to inquire with a local facility and ask for a patient rights pamphlet or ask your doctor.
Every place I’ve received mental health treatment has given me a pamphlet that clearly outlined my rights as a mental health consumer. If you have not been given one or it’s been awhile since you started treatment at a particular facility, ask.
As it relates to trying to soothe the oftentimes irrational fears that mental illness creates, the best route is to ground the other person in truth and reality, reinforced with boundaries. The approach I personally use is:
“I will not promise you that I will never call authorities. If you are suicidal, violent, or making threats, I absolutely will. But beyond that, I will not.”
Clear, concise, with fair and meaningful boundaries.
Involuntary hospitalization is meant to be used as a last line of defense to help a person in dire need and prevent them from hurting themselves or someone else. It is a tool to be used if a mentally ill person has completely disconnected from reality, rationality, and poses an imminent threat. It’s not something that can just be evoked over whatever. The authorities are not going to haul a person off and lock them in a padded room just because another person says they are a threat. It’s not that simple.
My personal opinion? If I were to ever reach the point where I would need to be involuntarily hospitalized? I would be glad for it once I leveled out. I’m sure it would have been used at a time when I could have done serious harm to myself or someone else at a time when my mental illness was overwhelming me. And you don’t get to take back the actions you take in those times.
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