Can I Get A Phone?

One of the loneliest and scariest times is when we are hospitalized. We are away from our home and our family. We don’t know exactly when we are going to get better and be able to leave. There are lots of rules and people wearing scrubs or uniforms. Let’s face it; it’s hard to relax when you are in the hospital.

Being in a psychiatric unit is even harder. The symptoms that led to the hospitalization are often serious and people are often very withdrawn from the rest of the world. They may be too tired, exhausted or disoriented to reach out to others during the hospital stay.

Trying to connect to someone in an inpatient psychiatric unit is nearly impossible – and yet this is when they need us to connect the most. There are few visitors, sometimes limited visiting hours, few get well cards and nearly zero caring bridge sites. There are no phones in the rooms, and you must relinquish your cell phone.

If someone tries to call you, it’s to the phone in the main patient area and you have to hope that another patient picks up the phone and then finds your friend or loved one. It can just ring and ring and there is no voice mail. The patient who answered may come back and say that the person you are calling for can’t come to the phone – and leaving a message is nearly impossible.

If the person who is hospitalized does feel up to calling, they have to recall people’s phone numbers. How many of us depend on speed dial on our cell phones to reach family members – can you recall off the top of your head ten of your relatives or friends phone numbers? Taking away a cell phone can take away our connection to others.

There must be a better way. I tried to call someone today who needed some advocacy help. I tried on the hour for five hours. I have not been able to reach them. I don’t want them to think that NAMI Minnesota doesn’t care or doesn’t want to help them. But I have no way to reach them.

To all the hospital administrators out there –please make it easier for people to connect when they are struggling with their mental health in an inpatient unit. Connection to others does help with recovery. This should be an easy problem to solve – and will help reduce loneliness and isolation. Make a commitment to address this issue.