Once Rachel stabilized, she was transferred to the children’s wing. My stomach filled with knots knowing the next piece we were going to have to endure, in part because we had already been through it so many times. So, I did what any almost-lawyer would do: I talked to a lawyer, and prepared myself for the very, very worst.
There are special rules about patients who survive a suicide attempt: they have to be evaluated for psychiatric issues that may require further inpatient hospitalization. There are two ways to get into inpatient hospitalization: voluntarily commitment or involuntarily commitment. Now, you can’t just go to an emergency room and say: “I want to kill myself” and they’ll say: “oh, friend, let me lead you to a hospital bed, and we will take care of you.” Oh, no.
Nor can you bring your suicidal child to an emergency room and say the exact same thing and have them respond that they will take your child in to ensure their safety. Oh, no. That would be too easy.
Involuntary commitment involves a judge and a court proceeding in which it is determined for a period of time that the person in question has been recommended for involuntary hospitalization because they have been deemed a danger to themselves or others. And some other stuff. The first order is for 72 hours, then for 14 days, and then a longer one can be instituted. Each round requires a new hearing, and the patient is assigned to a public defender that will advocate for them.
I would say that getting past the emergency room to get admitted for juvenile psychiatric care is akin to being selected for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Be really, really pathetic and, if possible, there should be lots of blood. Except you don’t leave with a paid mortgage and quadrupled power bill. Just the sense that you are being judged harshly by people who don’t have to go home with a child that is hell bent on killing themselves, but who may be moderately softened by having been deprived of their cell phone, access to the internet, and any form of self-determination through Starbucks beverages and personal music selections. You can only color and fill out packets touting different methods of healthy coping methods so long before you will give up the idea of suicide if you can just get out of that mind-numbing hellhole.
I am not convinced of the inerrant, therapeutic virtues of inpatient mental health hospitalization. Not even a little bit. But, when your child has nearly died, and psychiatry starts feeling like a pseudo-science with no answers, it seems like the only solution.
If she’s in there, she can’t kill herself.
If she’s out here, I can’t protect her from herself.
Being in there will be hell.
At least she will be alive.