You’re in crisis and decide that you need to go to the hospital. So what do you take with you?
In this post, I’m going to give you a few tips and then a few lists that should help you with packing. :)
Pack lightly, try to think of the things you use in a day to be comfortable, and don’t over think it. If you realize you need something later, you can get a friend or family member to bring it to you.
Remember, hospitals are about safety and security, and will take away any items that may be used to harm yourself. This includes mirrors (they’re glass & could be broken), razors, and tweezers.
When you’re first admitted, it’s hospital policy to put your belongings in a locker. As far as I know, this goes with most floors of the hospital, not just psych, because the hospital doesn’t want to be held responsible for lost or stolen items. Hospital staff can open your locker for you when you need something. Also, if you take something with you that you aren’t allowed to have or decide you don’t need, you can send it home with a parent or friend who visits you.
If you have family or friends who could bring you stuff from home later, then definitely keep that in mind when packing for admission. You can always get more stuff brought to you. Think necessities only! You don’t know for sure that you’ll be admitted, and if you are, you might have to wait in the ER for at least 24 hours before they have a bed ready for you on the psychiatric unit. The fewer belongings you have with you, the fewer things you need to keep track of.
In general, I’ve found that the longer you’ve been at the hospital (days or even just hours), the more hospital staff tends to trust you to have your stuff out and not locked away. They know that it is boring to be in the hospital, and you have to pass the time somehow. They’ll let you keep a book or some magazines or sometimes your phone as long as you don’t make phone calls or take photos/videos, for confidentiality reasons.
Also, it’s pretty typical that if you’re admitted to the hospital for psychiatric reasons, they usually lock up your clothes and make you wear a hospital gown and pants.
HOSPITAL GARB FASHION TIPS: Hospital gowns usually tie at the back leaving your back and sometimes your butt/underwear exposed. Ask for two gowns instead of one, and that way you can put one on the normal way (ties in the back) and then put on another over the first one, and tie it up in the front. It may sound bulky, but the hospital tends to be cold so layers are actually great. There are hospital robe things but they’re sometimes hard to find. Hospital pants come one size fits all, so keep that waistband tied! Sometimes they give you these terrible little booties to put over your feet. If you have a kind security guard, orderly, or nurse, they’ll let you keep your socks on.
This may sound scary, I know. But consider it a rite of passage to wear hospital clothes. They are clean, you can change them every few hours if you want, and they’re super comfy. Same goes for blankets. There is a steady supply of warm blankets in the hospital, especially the ER. Blankets are your friend! If you’re cold, ask for more. One of last year’s hospital admissions left me looking like I was in a cocoon cause my room was so cold. Whatever! I planned on becoming a butterfly by discharge.
ANYWAY, packing tips! Here you go:
Things to Pack for Sure
– A toothbrush and tooth paste
– Flip-flops for the showers (so you don’t pick up any weird foot diseases)
– A hairbrush
– Any nighttime items you need like your retainer and its case, your glasses or contacts case, etc
– A few clean pairs of underwear and socks
– comfort objects like a stuffed animal, a photo of your pet (unframed cause glass stuff isn’t allowed), your favourite blanket
Those are things you’re going to need. These next items you may want to have with you, but the hospital staff will insist that they be locked up unless you’re using them.
Things You May Want to Pack (but be prepared to part with them)
– Shampoo and conditioner
– Face wash
– Hair elastics
– Body wash or soap and a puff
– Moisturizer (hospitals are so dry!)
– A box of Kleenex
ANOTHER PRO TIP FROM ERIN: Hospitals have toothbrushes, toothpaste, and combs if you forget them or aren’t in a state to pack your own stuff. They aren’t the best quality of items, but they’re there if you need them. Always bring your own tampons and pads if you might get your period soon. Just, trust me. Oh, and hospitals (mainly the ER) carry these little wipes for cleaning yourself off when you’re not up to showering. They’re like Wet Wipes but for your whole body. They aren’t great but they’re something to use if you’re feeling desperate and not wanting to shower with a guard behind the curtain.
Hospitals also have body wash, shampoo, and conditioner…all in one bottle. WEIRD/GROSS, yeah, but man, if you haven’t showered for a few days, that stuff is your best friend when you finally do hit the shower. And believe it or not, it makes your hair look great.
Hospitals also have boxes of Kleenex on steady demand, usually in each room. That said, they’re the size for like kittens or something. They are stupidly small, nonabsorbent, and kind of scratchy. Being in the hospital can be an emotional experience, so having your own box of Kleenex will keep you from scratching your face with that sandpaper kitten tissue crap.
Fun Stuff to Bring to Hospital
– Colouring books and crayons (seriously, folks, colouring the most calming thing in the world.)
– Anything else that you enjoy doing to pass the time. Crafts are great if you don’t need scissors.
– A journal and several pens (sometimes staff won’t want for you to have a pen, but if I don’t write in hospital I really start to lose my shit. That’s another reason to have crayons. They’re allowed when pens and pencils aren’t)
Keep really valuable stuff at home, for security reasons. Like that portable DVD player could get stolen, even with the hospital staff locking it up.
Like I said before, the longer you’re in hospital the more they let you keep your belongings out and get somewhat comfortable. For some of my admissions, I was allowed to have my stuff out right away. For others, it was days before I could spread out.
Never forget that you can ask to keep your belongings out. Communication is key in hospital. The more you assert yourself and advocate for your needs, the sooner they trust you to take care of yourself and not practice any self-harming behaviours. Also, you can ask for a compromise when hospital staff aren’t willing to let you have exactly what you are requesting. For example, once in the ER, the security guard watching me said I couldn’t have a pen. I NEEDED to write in my journal, so I said, “What if I sat in the doorway on this chair and that way you could see me one hundred percent? I can promise I won’t do anything to harm myself with this pen.” The security guard said he was cool with that! Win!
Click the “More” arrow below to see a picture of my hospital bed with my stuff on it.
Note crayons, stuffed animals, and an afghan from home. There’s my big yellow journal on the bed.
This is what my locker looked like after I moved my stuff out of it. You can see that it’s pretty big but the shelves aren’t very deep.
(Readers from LHSC, I confess to taking these photos on the psychiatric ward, when the rules are ABSOLUTELY NO PHOTOS. But since there were no patients in the shot, I decided to break the rule. Please let me know if these photos present a problem and I’ll remove them!)
I hope this post helps to give you an idea of what you might need to pack for a trip to the hospital. Everyone is different, though, so definitely think about your needs first. The things that make me happy (books, my journal, stuffed animals, crayons) might not bring comfort to you during crisis. What activities are calm and relaxing to you? What makes you most feel at home?
It’s good to think about this stuff before you’re in a crisis, so that you’re prepared and slightly less stressed should you need to go to the hospital.
Check out my Help Page if you’re in crisis (overwhelmed and in fear of being hurt by yourself or someone else). Remember that I love you! So do many, many others, and reaching out for help is the best thing you can do to feel better! ♥