Visiting Hours, Limited
Start writing a post
Student Life

Visiting Hours, Limited

Planning a visit to a loved one in a mental health facility can be difficult.

Visiting Hours, Limited

In the fall of my senior year at college, I visited my friend at a mental health facility for the first time. It turned out to be quite a stressful experience. In retrospect, I wish I had walked in with a better idea of the process so I could have taken better care of my own mental health.

When I did a Google search, I was surprised I couldn’t find any articles on this topic -- not even one. Instead, my search yielded tips for hospital visits. But the two institutions differ from each other in ways that significantly impact the visitor’s experience, and I think that each deserves its own account. So here are some tips that I hope will help, regardless of what your situation looks like.

1. Check out the facility’s policies.

First, you’ll have to check if and when guests are allowed. Usually, new patients must wait a week or two before they can reach out with any invitations. It’s standard policy to acclimate the patient to the new environment, and assess their mental health without outside interference.

2. Don't spring a surprise visit.

Surprises can be fun, but not in this case. Show you care by asking if they would like you to visit. If they agree, confirm on the day of to see if they’re still up for it. They might be tired or otherwise upset on a particular day and may want to spend some time alone. Or this might be when they need extra support. Different strokes for different folks. Ask and don’t assume.

3. Check in with yourself beforehand.

Make sure you’re in an emotionally strong place before trying to support your friend. I made the mistake of rushing over right after my thesis walk-through, even though I needed some mental head space and hadn’t eaten dinner yet. It’s tough to find a time when you’re not busy; but if you plan ahead, you can reduce the amount of stress. Again, make sure you’re feeling well on the day of, just hours before visiting. Moods can change throughout the day, and it may be necessary to postpone the trip.

4. Leave any gifts at home.

Unlike a hospital, mental health facilities neither encourage nor allow visitors to carry in items of any sort. Snacks, knickknacks, the patient’s favorite blanket -- all on the restricted list. Thinking about it now, that makes sense. But I’ll admit I was surprised I couldn’t take in basics like my cell phone or wallet. Save yourself time by leaving everything but your ID in the car when you walk in. Otherwise you’ll end up like me and have to make another trip in a poorly lit parking lot. Not fun.

5. Arrive on time.

Strict policies mean visiting hours are limited. In my case, I was only allowed one hour. But because I had to find the place, park, and check in at the front desk for approval, I ended up with maybe 20 odd minutes. This turn of events made me even more stressed out than I already was.

6. Coordinate with other visitors prior to the visit.

Other people -- parents, relatives or friends -- may also want to drop in. It can be helpful to chat with them ahead of time to ensure that your loved one does not feel overwhelmed by too many people at once. Of course, you’ll want to check in with your loved one on what they would consider overwhelming, since everyone possesses different limitations. In addition, the facility itself will limit the number of people that can step in at one time. Give other visitors privacy as needed, and don’t take it personally if you don’t all receive an equal amount of time.

7. Listen to understand.

I don’t mean just listening to the words they say. You’re going to have to read between the lines a bit. What do their body language and facial expressions reveal? Or consider asking them directly: What can I do to support you right now? Do you need someone to listen without giving advice? Alternatively, do you want to problem solve and talk about solutions? What is going to make you feel better, not worse? It's not your job to “fix them,” per se, but it is your job to be supportive. By supportive, I mean, don’t give them advice if they just want a shoulder to cry on, and vice versa.

8. Don’t make promises you can't keep.

Tempting, but a horrible idea since expectations can be dangerous. Try not to give someone false hope, because you never know if something like work or illness will crop up and interfere. Maybe ask if the person would like to see you again or if they feel up for discussing the matter at a later time. They might not know how to respond in the moment, so give them space to think about it.

9. Remind them that they're loved.

It’s imperative that you ensure they know you want to visit them -- that it’s a choice, not an obligation. From their end, it can be easy to feel like a burden, even if all parties know that is not the case. We all need reminders that we’re loved, especially during tough times.

10. Reflect on how you’re feeling and take care of yourself.

At the end of the day, the cliche that you need to put yourself first is a must. I recommend taking at least a one-day break between visits. I made the mistake of visiting on consecutive days, which took a toll on my body and mind. Breathe. Eat before the visit. Ask someone to drive if you need, and take breaks as needed. It’s been said by many, and I’ll repeat after them: be kind to yourself.

11. Continue to communicate about the next step.

Whether or not you decide to visit again, talk to your loved one and let them know what your plans are. Uncertainty can be anxiety-producing, and you want to avoid that as much as possible. hey will appreciate it if you communicate with them honestly so they can adjust their expectations.

If you’ve visited someone in a mental health facility before, what was your experience like? What did you think of it?

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

Unlocking Lake People's Secrets: 15 Must-Knows!

There's no other place you'd rather be in the summer.

Group of joyful friends sitting in a boat
Haley Harvey

The people that spend their summers at the lake are a unique group of people.

Whether you grew up going to the lake, have only recently started going, or have only been once or twice, you know it takes a certain kind of person to be a lake person. To the long-time lake people, the lake holds a special place in your heart, no matter how dirty the water may look.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Top 10 Reasons My School Rocks!

Why I Chose a Small School Over a Big University.

man in black long sleeve shirt and black pants walking on white concrete pathway

I was asked so many times why I wanted to go to a small school when a big university is so much better. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure a big university is great but I absolutely love going to a small school. I know that I miss out on big sporting events and having people actually know where it is. I can't even count how many times I've been asked where it is and I know they won't know so I just say "somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin." But, I get to know most people at my school and I know my professors very well. Not to mention, being able to walk to the other side of campus in 5 minutes at a casual walking pace. I am so happy I made the decision to go to school where I did. I love my school and these are just a few reasons why.

Keep Reading...Show less
Lots of people sat on the cinema wearing 3D glasses

Ever wonder what your friend meant when they started babbling about you taking their stapler? Or how whenever you ask your friend for a favor they respond with "As You Wish?" Are you looking for new and creative ways to insult your friends?

Well, look no further. Here is a list of 70 of the most quotable movies of all time. Here you will find answers to your questions along with a multitude of other things such as; new insults for your friends, interesting characters, fantastic story lines, and of course quotes to log into your mind for future use.

Keep Reading...Show less
New Year Resolutions

It's 2024! You drank champagne, you wore funny glasses, and you watched the ball drop as you sang the night away with your best friends and family. What comes next you may ask? Sadly you will have to return to the real world full of work and school and paying bills. "Ah! But I have my New Year's Resolutions!"- you may say. But most of them are 100% complete cliches that you won't hold on to. Here is a list of those things you hear all around the world.

Keep Reading...Show less

The Ultimate Birthday: Unveiling the Perfect Day to Celebrate!

Let's be real, the day your birthday falls on could really make or break it.

​different color birthday candles on a cake
Blacksburg Children's Museum

You heard it here first: birthdays in college are some of the best days of your four years. For one day annually, you get to forget about your identity as a stressed, broke, and overworked student, and take the time to celebrate. You can throw your responsibilities for a day, use your one skip in that class you hate, receive kind cards and gifts from loved ones and just enjoy yourself.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments