When do you take your kid to the hospital?

My kids have depression issues and the last nine months has been, well, hell . They've both had the depression issue for years, but their meds stopped working at the same time last summer. It sucks to have depressed kids.

For the past nine months, I've been taking each kid to see the psychiatrist every three weeks. She and the kid (and I) make a plan for medication tweaks all in the hopes that this time the drugs will click in and work. Then we come home and wait. And cross our fingers. And I observe the kids.

My son's meds have been heading in the right direction. My daughter, on the other hand, has not had that same luck and we have admitted her to the hospital thrice in the last six months.

When is it time to take your kid to the hospital for depression? It's a tricky question. It's almost as tricky and confusing and miserable a question as “is it time to euthanize my beloved pet.”

If your child is suicidal and you can't keep a line of site on them 100% of the time, your child needs to be hospitalized. If your kid is suicidal, you really don't have a choice.

It's trickier with my daughter, however. In some ways, it'd be easier (for me) if she were suicidal. The decision would be made already. My daughter doesn't get actively suicidal though. She gets depressed and becomes passively suicidal. She doesn't seek out knives and razor blades and pills. But, if a car ran over her, she wouldn't be too upset about it.

When she's passively suicidal, I can protect her and make sure she lives. But I can't fix the problem, and yearning to be run over by a bus does not give a person a high quality of life.

The other factors I look at include how much the kid has been sleeping and eating. Has the kid been angry? Does the kid cry all the time?

I think about all those things and ask myself “Does the kid's life suck right now? Can I do anything to make it better?” If her life does indeed suck and there's nothing I can do, I make an appointment at the local adolescent treatment facility and leave the decision up to the staff.

The trained social worker interviews the child and reads through her intake paperwork. The social worker then talks to a psychiatrist on staff and they make a determination about whether or not the child should be hospitalized. The social worker will have one of three verdicts

  1. No, the kid doesn't need to be hospitalized at this time.

  2. Yes, the kid could from a stint at the hospital, but she's not bad enough at this time to require the hospitalization.

  3. Yes, the kid needs to be hospitalized. If the parents aren't willing to admit her, the kid is bad enough off that the hospital will put the kid on a hold.

In summary, if my child is miserable and there's nothing I can do about it, and it's been going on for a while and there's no sign that the misery will let up, I take her to the hospital and let the hospital staff evaluate her and make the decision. The three times I've done this, the kid was admitted and would have been put on a hold if I didn't admit her voluntarily. I've yet to experience the second option above. I suspect I would let my daughter decide if Option No. 2 was presented to us.