Should we hospitalize our daughter?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

two months ago, my daughter confessed to me that she has a plan to buy a gun when she turns 21 and shoot herself. This confession got us started to counseling which she is doing right now. We went to a psychiastrist this week as this was requested by the counselor she’s seeing. After the doctor saw my daughter she told me that she needed to be hospitalized. She said that my daughter is so angry at herself and she blames me for giving birth to her. My daughter is angry with her own family especially me. The doctor basically told me that she wants me dead. Then last night, I saw on one of her drawings, she wrote..she saw Jack Ripper..oh..no.my mother is dead and buried, her bones is all over the place.

My daughter knows that I know everything and she doesn’t show any remorse or guilt for what she feels or want to do. My daughter has a very low self esteem, hates herself so much, wished she’s not born, she mentioned that kids made fun of her all the time from middle school until highschool, she’s been called names such as worthless,stupid, etc. (she’s now in her second year college but is now dropping all her classes, just not motivated anymore)

I don’t know what to do. I don’t want my daughter to be hospitalized, i don’t feel that she’s a threat to any of us but i know that she is not in her right mind saying what she said or wanted to do. The doctor said that she is hiding it from us and that she is in pain and severely depressed. she acts very normal around us, shows no agression or violence. We did not take her to the hospital and still deciding whether to allow her on medication. Me and my husband is very scared that this might cause more harm than help her. Could sending her away to a group home help? Should we really hospitalized her and give her medication? Please help.

A: I can’t tell you what to do, of course. What I can tell you is that hospitalization is not something that a psychiatrist recommends lightly. Your doctor evidently feels that your daughter is suffering and is in serious psychological trouble. A hospitalization would give mental health specialists the opportunity to observe her closely and to involve her in more intensive treatment than outpatient therapy has to offer.

During most hospital stays, patients participate in lots of group therapy every day as well as individual therapy. The doctors will also probably make recommendations for medication since she seems to be so seriously depressed. Because she is over 18, the decision whether to take them or not is up to her. Most hospitals will encourage a patient who has parents who care about her to involve her parents, both in some of the therapy sessions and in the decisions about treatment. If your daughter is unresponsive to treatment, the doctors might recommend a residential program but such programs are rare these days. Usually a hospital stay is sufficient to give treatment a jumpstart which is then followed up with outpatient therapy.

You may not feel that she is a threat to you or to herself but I’m worried that you are minimizing very strong danger signals. Please talk further with your counselor and psychiatrist and get a clear picture of what a hospitalization would look like and what goals they think a stay there would achieve. It’s clear to me you are concerned and loving parents. Please don’t let your fears get in the way of hearing what may be very good advice.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Oct 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). Should we hospitalize our daughter?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/10/12/should-we-hospitalize-our-daughter/