Odd title, right? Well, I have a friend who is thinking about starting a website that is essentially a list of mental health facilities that she (and I, and some others we know) have been to, and comparing them; I mentioned that it was kind of like Yelp for mental health facilities, so I’ll stand by that title. I don’t think it’ll stick, and I’m sure she’ll come up with something more clever, but I thought I’d just get my writeups out of the way. I’ve been to three acute care facilities and one residential, between 2007 and now, and I’m going to rate them on a scale of 1-5.
Barnes Jewish (2 out of 5): This is the first acute care facility I was at, back in 2007. I don’t have a lot of clear memories about it, since not long after I was there I started getting ECT, but from what I remember, the staff, while not energetic or terribly interested, were at least nice and generally helpful. The facilities were kind of old, but kept up pretty well, and they had things to do for the patients – I remember there being a ping-pong table, and a decent-sized stack of books to read there; it was in that facility that I started reading a particular series. The patients, from what I remember, weren’t awfully friendly, but I also don’t remember being scared of them, so that’s a plus. Still, the general lack of informed care is really what drops this plus to a 2.
Mercy Hospital (3 out of 5): This is the second place I went, about 6 months or so after my stay at Barnes Jewish. I voluntarily admitted here, and I remember that it was a building separate from the main hospital. It was a relatively new facility, and while I remember it being kind of bare, I remember the staff were pretty friendly, and while I remember my roommate being a quiet guy, there were some other friendly patients there; I remember them asking me to look them up in World of Warcraft, but I don’t remember much more. I was getting ECT every day while I was there, so most of my memories are relatively fuzzy, but I do remember that it was a relatively decent place. Even though it was a good place, it didn’t really have any suggested help for aftercare, so it only gets a 3.
SSM DePaul Health Center (1 out of 5): This was the worst place I have personally been to; I was ‘voluntarily’ admitted there after my second suicide attempt. I remember it being very unpleasant; the staff were generally dismissive; they put me in a room with a 5-time felon; I was advised by a staff member that if one particular patient, a very large man with anger issues, asked for any of my food, I should just give it to them. The facility wasn’t very well-kept, and was fairly uncomfortable, and even the few activities they had to try to keep us busy – and by us, I mean basically a collection of all the mental disorders and illnesses you can think of, violent and not – were kind of half-assed. One time a social worker came in, and instead of actually talking to us about anything, she just turned on The Blind Side and then came back an hour later. I had to agree to more ECT to get out of there in less than a week, and the ECT was the only decently-run part that I remember. It was a miserable place, and I’m glad I could get out of there.
Menninger Clinic (5 out of 5): This was my only residential facility, so I may be biased, but this is my opinion. While Menninger is really expensive, every weekday had full days planned out, with multiple groups to attend and learn from, which I really enjoyed. The group setting – with no violent patients allowed – was a bit awkward at first, but it really helped to get across the point that I wasn’t alone in my illness. The staff was always helpful, and willing to listen if I had anything to talk about, and the social worker, psychiatrist, and psychologist I worked with were a very good team. While our activities were restricted, and we were only allowed out on supervised outings on weekends, I felt pretty comfortable there, and very safe. The food was great,if a little repetitive, and the availability of exercise equipment combined with the relatively healthy food choices helped me lose about 20 pounds while I was there. The treatment there, as well as the focus on help after I left – when I went into their aftercare program, it was a pretty seamless transition. The only problems I had there were a couple of patients who seemed to be a poor fit for the program, and who were very disruptive for my last 2 (out of 8) weeks there. But I made some great friends, and I’m still healthy and managing my depression over a year later, so I’d call that a win.