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Advice To Hard Core Mentally Ill

“Here is some advice on how to navigate through the mental health system.” 

This is a little article written for people who suffer from mental illness giving them some practical advice on how to navigate through the system. If you know of anybody who suffers from mental illness and goes to psychiatric hospitals on a regular basis share this with them. 

First rule is that if the police bring you to a psychiatric hospital the best thing is to sign yourself in. The reason is that there are only three possibilities. The first is that they will release you. If you were in such a terrible condition the authorities got involved this is highly unlikely. If you don’t sign yourself in you will see two psychiatrist who will claim you are a threat to yourself or others. After this they will commit you. If you sign yourself in you will go to the voluntary ward. The voluntary ward affords more liberties and less restrictions.

There are only two reasons you should go to a psychiatric hospital. The first is that your mania has made you out of touch with reality. If this is the case it is probably only a matter of time before you wind up getting locked up. Ideally one should volunteer to the hospital in the midst of their mania but that is a foolish notion. One cannot expect a person out of touch with reality to do the rational thing. If you feel suicidal you should go to the psychiatric hospital. If you think that you might take your own life it is time to get serious help.

Understand that when you are in a psychiatric hospital that everything you do and say in being observed. Also the staff is required to put down what they see and hear into a log. Thus you want to be on your best behavior. You want to spend as little time in a psychiatric hospital as possible. Understand also that everybody on the staff his input on your release as well. The doctor reads reports from the nurses and the psych techs.

It is wise to cooperate with the staff and participate in activities and groups. Complying to the demands of the program is seen as positive while not going along with the therapy is seen as negative. Besides you will probably benefit from some of the activities. I recall in my hospital stays such activities as yoga, music and art. I also independently wrote poems. I wrote poems to all the staff each with a picture I drew.

Cooperation affords you benefits. I recall in my last hospitalization that half way through I became very compliant. I would even help the staff clean up the dining room after the other patients ate. My diligence was rewarded to the point where I was allowed to go out of the ward into a confined grassy area. There is no good reason for not going along with the program it would only prolong your stay.

Group therapy is a very touchy thing. What the facilitator is asking is that you reveal your deepest feelings to a group of strangers for critique. In theory this holds a lot of promise but I have seen it abused. I recall one woman who was a nurse. One of her problems was that another nurse on her job, who was a lesbian, wanted to have sex with her. The advice of the facilitator, “You have to follow love wherever you find it.” I was put in a very compromising position as to whether to challenge advice that I thought wasn’t sound or be quiet. I chose to be silent because I know that authority doesn’t like to be challenged. The point is even advice with good intentions might be amiss.

Finally upon release follow up with the program. Above all don’t stop taking your medicine prematurely and only make changes in conjunction with your psychiatrist. I have been burned several times by stopping or cheating on my medicine. Stopping your medicine will bring you back to the psychiatric hospital.

Here is a book of poetry that explores my complex life called “Polishing The Fragments”. Please purchase a copy.

Advice To Hard Core Mentally Ill

John Kaniecki

John Kaniecki is a full-time caregiver for his wife Sylvia. He is a published writer and works with the Church of Christ. John has lived with bipolar for over thirty years and has been hospitalized nine times, three of which were committed. John has chronicled his life story in his memoirs "More Than The Madness". Also of note is John's book of poetry "Murmurings Of A Mad Man" which are poems written about being committed in Graystone Psychiatric Hospital. John believes in the power of words to change the world for the better. His website can be seen here. His books can be seen on Amazon. You can visit his personal blog "Turn A Page Or Two" here.

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APA Reference
Kaniecki, J. (2018). Advice To Hard Core Mentally Ill. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 15, 2018, from


Last updated: 2 Mar 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Mar 2018
Published on All rights reserved.