Inpatient means that you come to a hospital and you stay in the hospital overnight. This is because the treatment you are receiving requires you to stay in overnight.
Outpatient means that you come to a hospital or a health centre for your appointment and then you go home after you’ve had your appointment which will usually last 45 minutes or one hour.
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It’s important to know that the vast majority of mental health therapy or treatment that is offered to young people is offered as an outpatient, i.e., for appointments that you would come to and then go home again after. It’s much rarer for a young person to be admitted to a hospital.
Any decision about a young person needing to come to hospital for treatment is a big decision and won’t be taken lightly. This decision will usually be made by parents and carers together with professionals, therapists and doctors, who will consult with and ask the young person what their views are about coming to hospital.
It is completely understandable if you are nervous about being admitted as an inpatient especially if you are unsure about whether that is something that you want to do. Try to share any concerns, fears or objections with your parents or carers and any professionals in any discussions about possibly admitting you as an inpatient.
Like for all sorts of physical illnesses, how long you might stay in a hospital as an inpatient will depend on how ill you are and the treatment that you are in hospital to receive. But broadly, for child mental health services, there are often two types of admissions.
The first is relatively brief; shorter admissions that might last between one or two weeks in hospital because you’ve been in a particularly unwell state. You may have been distressed or feeling in a very low mood or suicidal and those around you may be really worried about you and your safety. For this type of admission, you are in hospital to be safe, to be treated and then to make a plan so that you can go home in a safe way.
There are also longer treatment admissions that might be for a month, or between 4–8 weeks and sometimes longer, in which you’re in hospital to receive a treatment for a particular mental health problem. Once you have completed the treatment you should, if it is safe for you to do so, be able to make a plan so that you can go home.
When you are discharged from an inpatient stay at a hospital, this is usually done in a planned way. So, usually the point of discharge is when you are feeling better, when you’ve recovered from how you were feeling when you were first admitted to hospital. At this stage, there will usually be a meeting with you, your parent or carer and the team in the hospital, to create a plan ensure that you are supported when you return home and to arrange follow-up outpatient appointments, usually with your local team away from the hospital, to check in with you and, if you’re on medication, to check that you are actually benefitting from taking the medication.
There will usually have been a lot of thought and care taken to ensure that any medication you’re prescribed will be beneficial to you. So, before making any decisions about whether you want to stop taking your medication, the best thing to do is to go back to your doctor and share any worries, or concerns with them. Obviously, no one can force you to take medication, it’s your choice, but it’s really important to have thought through whether this is actually going to be helpful to you or not.