If someone you love has been admitted to a mental healthcare facility, you may be wondering whether or not you should visit them while they're there. The thought of visiting a mental healthcare ward can be intimidating to some, but the truth is that a psychiatric hospital is a lot like any other hospital. Patients, including your loved one, are getting the care they need, and while they're there, they are likely to want visitors. Take a look at some tips that can help you plan a successful visit to your loved one during their stay.

Call First

While your loved one probably does want visitors, it's important to remember that recovering from an episode of mental illness is tiring, just like recovering from pneumonia or a broken bone can be tiring. Your loved one may also be taking medication that could make them sleepy at odd times. Don't visit unannounced—call first and see if your loved one is up to visitors. It's the polite thing to do.

While you're at it, call and check with the staff before you visit as well. Make sure that you know the facility's visiting hours, and check to see if there are any rules about what kind of gifts you can bring to the patient. The facility may place restrictions on toiletries or certain types of food or drinks or other items that you might bring. For example, items like razors, mirrors, and lighters or matches may be restricted. Make sure that you check on whether or not a gift you're thinking of is allowed before you mention it to the patient, to avoid disappointment.

Don't Ignore the Illness

Because many people feel uncomfortable with mental illness, it's not uncommon to for friends and family of patients to act like the illness just doesn't exist. But what your loved one needs is validation, not for you to ignore what they're going through. Ask questions about how they're feeling and how treatment is going, just like you would do if they were being treated for a physical ailment. Don't push the issue if your loved one doesn't want to talk about it, but if they do want to talk, let them.

Avoid saying things like "it could always be worse," or "you just have to have a positive attitude." You might mean well, but these statements can sound dismissive or even blaming. Instead, acknowledge their feelings by saying things like, "that sounds really difficult." And ask how you can help. Your loved one may need their plants watered or their mail picked up. They may be bored and want you to bring them books or a deck of cards. They may want to talk about how they're feeling, or they may just want to hear the latest family news or social gossip. Ask sincere questions and follow the patient's lead.

Prepare Children Ahead of Time

Bringing your children, if the patient is close to them, can be a good experience for everyone. Visiting with the kids may cheer the patient up, and if your children are worried about the patient, a visit can help reassure them that the patient is OK and is getting well again. However, bringing children can require a little extra preparation.

Check with the staff before you visit with children. Depending on the facility, there might be restrictions on how old visitors have to be, or you may have to visit in a special family visiting room while your children are with you. Talk to your kids about the things they might see while they're visiting—explain that patients in the facility have illnesses that may make them say strange things or behave in strange ways, but they're being treated by doctors and there's nothing to be afraid of. Make sure that your children have adequate supervision—if you have several children, you may need to bring another adult or plan your visits with one child at a time. And of course, check with your loved one to make sure they're up to visiting with the kids before you come.

In most ways, visiting a patient in a mental healthcare facility isn't that different than visiting a patient in a regular hospital for a physical illness. The best thing that you can do is be there for your loved one and support them, just the way that you would support them through any other illness. To learn more, contact services like Park Center Inc.