Consequences of a stay at a mental institution?

How does a stay in a mental institution affect someone’s life after the fact?

Who would know, or have a right to know, about the situation? Would it affect a person’s ability to find a job? Or only certain types of jobs? To get government clearance? Join the military? Own a gun? If the person is an immigrant, would it affect chances at citizenship? Would it affect chances at adoption? In what situations would someone have the right to ask whether a person has ever been “committed”?

Does it make a difference if you checked in yourself, or were forced into it, either through a hospital after a suicide attempt, or through an arrest for some sort of erratic behavior?

I’m assuming it falls under medical information, and therefore should be more or less private, but someone asked me this the other day and I realized that I’m not sure if there are any situations in which you’d be obligated to disclose a stay in an institution, or where having been in one would cause you a problem.

Any ideas?

Your likelihood of remaining the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1972 are vanishingly small.

Speaking from experience, here: People who know you’ve been in a mental institution will often (say about 90%) treat you as completely incompetent, potentially violent, and utterly untrustworthy.

Legally, I don’t believe anyone has the right to be told who isn’t involved with your medical care. I’ve seen a lot of people jump to conclusions, however, about unexplained gaps in one’s work history.

Socially, you’ll be better off if you claim you ran off to spend a month in the Caribbean, leaving your job, and family, in the lurch, and paying with it all on credit cards. You’ll even get some credit for being “free thinking” enough to take such a risk. Telling them you went somewhere to try to regain control of yourself and your life with medical help, and most people will treat you as a dangerous pariah.

If you want some real examples, check out this Pit thread.

I understand that it can be a problem socially, thanks to the stigmas of “mental illness”. But I’m trying to figure out if a stay in an institution for, say, a couple of months, will haunt you for the rest of your life. I know some jobs require a background check - would that come up?

Besides social prejudices, what would the consequences be?

I’m fairly certain you would not be able to own a firearm for X period of time after your release. If your insurance picked up the bill, well they would have a record. If you go on disability (medicaid/medicare) then the Feds will have a record. Not sure if that information follows you or not.

As a side note, do you really want to be in such a place for a couple of months?

According to the federal gun control laws of 1968 and the revisions in 1986, you would be banned from legally owning a gun in the US for the rest of your life if you were committed involuntarily.

I used to have a security clearance. There was a question about past mental health treatment on the form you had to fill out. They could deny you a security clearance for that reason, but AIUI they wouldn’t necessarily do so. The question also covered outpatient treatment like being prescribed antidepressants, and I know that wasn’t necessarily disqualifying, so it might not be.

Having been in a mental hospital, voluntarily or not, normally disqualifies you from joining the military.

Here’s a story from someone who was in a mental hospital for bipolar disorder and was later able to adopt a child.

I’ve been filling out lots of job applications lately :frowning: I don’t remember any of them asking about that, though lots of them do ask about any criminal background. YMMV depending on what kind of job you’re looking for, though.

It will probably effect your ability to get private insurance should you try to retire early. But I think even a prescription for Prozac will fuck up your chances for that.

Thanks for the info - and yes, it’s all hypothetical curiosity. I’m not off the deep end. Yet. :slight_smile:

At the risk of stating the obvious, the answer to your first question would be that you are alive and you’ve done nothing to make circumstances horribly worse. That is, certainly, even people with multiple and frequent hospitalizations who have made it all public have way, way better employment opportunities than the dead.

I think a stay at a mental hospital has little resume impact except that some people might notice a long data gap and ask about it. I have friends who created for themselves career sabbaticals, as they called it, and they found ways of working around this. If I were interviewing candidates I might ask, but more out of curiosity than looking for a specific thing. If the candidate answered that it was for a hospitalization, and there was enough material after that date that proves successful resolution from a career standpoint, then I’d chalk it up to personal growth and strength, not the opposite. If I were trying for a job, I don’t think I’d say it was for a hospitalization, unless trying to dodge the question turned into its own problem. Of course, a lost opportunity is just that, no better and no worse.

In the specific cases I know of, people seem to do OK in the job market after this; that is, I don’t think it would be typical to struggle with the issue. People don’t land the jobs that launch their careers from inside the hospital, but if you listed their experiences in order without the dates, and hid the hospitalization, the result wouldn’t look unusual. You wouldn’t wonder, “Wow, what happened between here and here?”

The only experience I have seen is that you can be deemed “uninsurable” unless you are in a group policy.

Chiming in as someone who has been in a mental hospital involuntarily for mania, I was there for six months (committed as a risk to myself and others) in 2007.

The after effects have largely been social - a small number of people I know have since treated me differently and a couple promptly dropped out of touch with me after it happened (one person refused to speak to me after I saw him in public).

In terms of my job, this all happened whilst being employed and as I work in the public sector the provision for long term sickness of any kind is generally pretty good. I wasn’t allowed to go back to my post and had to be placed within another job internally as my previous job was deemed too stressful (it may or may not have been a contributing factor to my manic episode happening). However there is nothing that requires me to tell others that my hospitalisation happened or what I was there for. I have disclosed it to people in the context of moving jobs but as I’ve now been back at work and functioning perfectly normally for over a year I don’t feel the need to do that for future jobs.

Should I leave my Department as seek work in another field there won’t be a gap on my CV, so there’s no issue there. That said I can’t go and work for MI6 as they specifically rule out people who have ever had a mental health issue - cite. However I could go and work for MI5 as mania doesn’t rule you out. As far as I’m aware mental health issues don’t rule you out of jobs that require the higher levels of security clearance within government. Mania doesn’t disqualify you from the UK military but Schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, alcohol or drug dependence and post-traumatic stress disorder do.

You have to declare mental health problems on insurance applications but that doesn’t stop you from getting coverage, just the insurance won’t cover you in the event of a relapse. I have private health cover but the package I have doesn’t extend to psychiatric treatment.

Other than that I can’t think of anything else, and of course all of this relates to the UK.