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  • Writer's pictureSabaa Afzal, LPC

When Should I Take My Child to a Behavioral Health Hospital?

For parents of children who self-harm or express suicidal thoughts. 

My heart sinks every time I hear a child expressing suicidal ideation. Inpatient psychiatric facilities can be necessary in certain situations. Oftentimes, however, parents are pressured by caseworkers to admit their child into the hospital for up to ten days. If parents are unhappy with care and request a release of their child, they are asked to sign an “against medical advice” form, which takes 24-hours to be processed. They can also be threatened with court or CPS if they do not "comply".

If your child exhibits these warning signs immediately call a mental health professional for further evaluation:

  • Being sad or mad for no apparent reason

  • Thoughts of being a bad person

  • Saying "the world would be better off" without them

  • Eating more or eating less

  • Sleeping less or over-sleeping

  • Non-lethal self-harm

  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities

If your child exhibits these danger signs, take your child to a behavioral health hospital or call 911:

  • Saying that things will never get better with warning signs present

  • Giving away toys and games with warning signs present

  • Self harm with greater potential for lethality

  • Can't give you reasons for living

  • Talking about killing themselves and have clear intent

  • Are able to tell you how they plan to kill themselves

Steps Parents Can Take:

  1. Call a child therapist (LPC, LCSW, LMFT) in your area who is not affiliated with any hospital for a recommendation of a behavioral health hospital.

  2. Once you locate and take your child to the hospital, ask about the partial hospitalization program. This is a day treatment program that includes all the therapies without the overnight stay.

  3. If you are afraid that you will not be able to able to keep your child safe, then inpatient treatment is recommended. 

Know Your Parental Rights:

  • You have the right to refuse inpatient treatment for your child and take them to another hospital.

  • You have the right to request an "against medical advice" release if you feel your child is not being treated appropriately.

  • If you feel threatened, ask to speak to the patient advocate or clinical services director of the hospital.

  • You have the right to file a complaint with The State Department of Health Services and The Joint Commission.

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