How long can a mental hospital keep you?


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Page last updated: 10/10/2022

In this guide, we will discuss “How long can a mental hospital keep you”, what it is to be hospitalized or admitted to a mental health facility, how you could find one, what you can expect from a mental health facility if you are admitted, what items you could bring and those that you shouldn’t, among other considerations.

How long can a mental hospital keep you?

If you are wondering, “How long can a mental hospital keep you?” we can tell you that it will depend on the complexity of the mental health illness. Some people can stay for a few days, others come and go and a few cases may overstay, you shouldn’t be kept or committed to a mental hospital against your will unless you will harm yourself or others.

For instance, as indicated by Nancy Schimelpfening, in the case of being committed in the U.S., “…varies from state to state, each state has procedures in place that prevent you from being detained without just cause, such as requirements for medical certification or judicial approval. There are also time limits on how long you can be held against your will.”

Moreover, whoever initiates the process will also vary from state to state and will depend on the type of commitment (emergency detention vs longer periods). Would you voluntarily check yourself into a psychiatric facility? It may not be many people admitting themselves into a psychiatric facility but it can certainly happen. 


The majority of people with a mental health illness may not be required to spend much time in a hospital or treatment centre, but there are some cases that may need hospitalization so they can receive the proper care, get monitored and have their medications adjusted or stabilized, especially during an acute episode when their mental condition has been getting worse.

According to the MHA, “Hospitalization may occur because someone decides it is the best decision for themselves, at the insistence of a family member or professional or as a result of an encounter with a first responder (EMT/paramedic, police officer, etc.).” 

Moreover, if you are considering hospitalization for yourself or a loved one, it can be a good option to reduce the stress of daily responsibilities for a short period, which allows you or your loved one to focus on their recovery. If you (or a loved one) are admitted due to a crisis or acute episode, as your crisis lessons and you can go to your normal routine, you can begin to plan your discharge. Remember that in-patient care is not intended to keep you confined indefinitely. 

How long can a mental hospital keep you?

How to find a mental facility?

The options available will depend on the level of care you need to receive. For instance, there are several types of facilities but also different levels of care such as:

  • In-patient with 24-hour care provided by the psychiatric facility. Care is usually supervised by psychiatrists and provided by psychiatrists, group therapists and nurses.  
  • Some hospitals offer acute and long-term care to people with low income or no means to pay. 
  • A partial hospitalization. This therapeutic service is provided during the data but unlike the in-patient, it is not on a 24-hour basis. 
  • Residential care. This is a 24-hour psychiatric care provided in a residential setting for children or adolescents. 

You can find the best psychiatrists in the bay area here.

It is recommended to talk to your therapist or psychiatrist to give you all the options available for you and if it is convenient for you to choose an in-patient or a residential treatment facility. 

As recommended by the MHA, “If your hospitalization is voluntary, or if your psychiatrist prescribes hospitalization, take the time to learn more about the recommended facility in which you will be receiving treatment. Call the facility in advance to learn about admission procedures, daily schedules, what items you can and cannot bring, and any other day-to-day policies you want to know about.” 

What can I expect from an in-patient psychiatric facility?

As we have discussed, in-patient facilities provide a 24-hour service and everything you may need including a space to sleep, bathe, recreate, eat and receive treatment. While you stay, you will be monitored and supervised with round-the-clock care. You will meet nurses, counsellors, therapists and psychiatrist in both individual and group sessions. Moreover, the team will take the time to assess you and design a treatment just for you. 

As indicated by the UPMC, members of the care team at your treatment facility could include:

  • Milieu therapists
  • Social workers
  • Registered nurses
  • Psychiatrists
  • Peer specialists
  • Patient care workers

How long you need to stay will depend on your needs so your treatment could last a few days or a few weeks but it will depend on your doctor’s particular recommendations. However, it is recommended to pack light since you will be provided with just about everything you may need for your stays such as toiletries, blankets, linens and other everyday items to make you feel comfortable.

Can I bring any items with me?

It is recommended to bring comfy clothes with no drawstrings, shoes that do not have laces, books, magazines and a list of the medicines (including vitamins or supplements) you take. However, if you are unsure, call the centre and ask for a list of allowed items since each facility will let you know in advance.

Some of the items you may need to leave at home may include cigarettes, lighters and controlled substances. Also, cellphones and other electronic devices, outside food and drinks, sharp jewellery, keys, cords, belts and anything that is made of glass.

Seclusion and restraint

Seclusion and restraint may be used if you have become violent and you are putting other patients and staff at risk. But what is seclusion? It means when a person is kept alone in a room or area where they can’t leave for some time. 

On the other hand, restraint is when a person is physically restricted from moving freely or at their own will. For instance, if you become aggressive or violent, it may be necessary to hold you down, give you medication or strap you down. 

However, these are not the most common options and are considered the last resort when all the other options have been exhausted or considered. 

Do I have rights while hospitalized?

Yes, in fact, you can tell the hospital or treatment centre staff if you feel uncomfortable with your treatment or you are unsure of something. 

They need to guarantee your privacy, safety, respect your cultural identity, refuse treatment, ask questions about your treatment and medications (i.e. side effects), ask for a second opinion regarding your diagnosis, make complaints, among others. Ask the staff for more information about your rights while being committed to a mental facility. 

Why is this blog about How long can a mental hospital keep you important?

As we have discussed while answering the question ‘How long can a mental hospital keep you’, we mentioned that it will depend on the reason why you were admitted, the treatment you may require and if you are responding to it positively. But it could range between a few days to a few weeks. Moreover, there are many options available for you or a loved one, so make sure to talk to your health care provider for more information. 

Finally, you are not obligated to stay in a psychiatric facility unless it is clear you are a danger to yourself (i.e. suicide attempts) or others. Remember every centre has its own rules when admitted and the items you can and can’t bring with you during your stay. Also, you are entitled to enforce your rights during your stay so make sure to ask the staff about them. 

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How long can a mental hospital keep you

How long can they keep you in the psych ward?

If you wonder, How long can they keep you in a psych ward after being admitted, it will depend on why you are there in the first place. However, it is believed that the average length of stay is around two to three weeks but consider this is assessed on a case to case basis. Your stay can be prolonged depending on your treatment and how you respond to it.

How long does a person have to stay in a mental hospital?

How long someone has to stay in a mental hospital will be influenced by many factors but according to, “The mean length of psychiatric hospitalization was 10.0 days. The mean age of the patients was 45.5 years. The 106 hospitals reported a mean percentage of female patients of 55%.”

What’s the longest you can stay in a mental hospital?

The longest someone can stay in a mental hospital will be influenced by many factors especially, the complexity of the mental health problem or main reason why they were admitted. Some people are admitted for a few days but some can be admitted for years. For instance, the NHS has reported the longest stay of a patient as 2.914 days. 

What are the 5 signs of mental illness?

The signs of mental illness may vary from one person to the other but consider seeking help if you have any of the following 5 signs:

– A long-lasting feeling of sadness or irritability.

– Sudden and extreme changes in your mood.

– Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety.

– Social isolation or withdrawal.

– Dramatic changes in your sleeping and eating habits.

Can you use your phone in a psych ward?

In some cases, you are allowed to use your phone to make phone calls but in a supervised area and most facilities limit visits and phone call hours to allow more time for treatment. However, in the majority of psychiatric facilities, patients go through a security check before they are admitted. The same happens with visitors so they can control the entrance of potential items considered as prohibited by the centre. 

References “What to Expect During an Inpatient Psychiatric Stay” “Psychiatric hospitals” “Hospitalization”

Schimelpfening, N. (2020, Jun.) Can You Be Committed to a Mental Hospital Against Your Will? Retrieved from