When someone you care about is struggling with the signs or symptoms of depression, it is important to understand when they may need inpatient or residential levels of care, where they can be watched and treated appropriately. Not everyone diagnosed with depression requires a high level of treatment, but when they do, obtaining the proper help may prevent serious problems related to depressive symptoms.
In our experience, these warning signs may help you identify when inpatient or residential treatment is appropriate for the treatment of a person with severe depression.
The Most Dangerous Warning Sign: Thoughts of Self-Harm or Suicidality
If you or someone you care about is experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicidality, they need help urgently. If a person is acting on these thoughts, such as cutting or mutilating, or attempting suicide, emergency services should be initiated. For thoughts of self-harm or suicide without action or a specific plan, a thorough assessment is necessary; that person may need to move to a safe environment as quickly as possible so they do not end up harming themselves. Even if they are not thinking of acting on these thoughts at the time, circumstances or a specific trigger might cause them to decompensate.
Individuals struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicidality are often also experiencing external factors contributing to their issues such as stress, familial discord, a recent breakup, or misuse of drugs or alcohol. In these circumstances, inpatient or residential treatment is often the best option for stabilization and safety.
Other Signs That Inpatient Treatment Is Necessary
While thoughts of self-harm or suicide present the most apparent sign that inpatient treatment is necessary, they are far from the only indication. Some of the other questions to consider include:
How Debilitating Is the Diagnosis?
Whether inpatient treatment is necessary or not largely depends on how debilitating the diagnosis is. For individuals diagnosed with symptoms characteristic of mild to moderate depression, the individual may still be able to fulfill daily responsibilities but feel an overall dissatisfaction with life or that something is “wrong.” For these individuals, inpatient or residential treatment may not be necessary; instead, outpatient or intensive outpatient with supportive housing might be a better option.
However, if an individual is diagnosed with severe depression that affects their ability to initiate activities, such as getting out of bed in the morning or taking care of basic responsibilities like grooming, eating, or going to work, intensive inpatient treatment is often a better option, particularly when their environment might be contributing to the issues. In these cases, simply keeping the individual active, motivated and engaged with others can be its own form of therapy, and that is more easily accomplished with inpatient treatment.
Has the Individual Tried Treatment Before?
If an individual has tried outpatient depression treatment before but failed to apply what they learned in their daily life, more intensive forms of therapy like inpatient treatment might provide a better option for success. While there can be a multitude of reasons for why an outpatient treatment program does not work for every individual, one of the possible explanations is mismedication or misdiagnosis.
Initially, these issues are more likely to occur when outpatient treatment is attempted before the treatment clinicians understand the full scope of the underlying issues and symptoms.
Is Lifestyle Contributing to Depression?
When an individual’s lifestyle or environment contributes to symptoms of depression or triggers underlying trauma or anxieties, inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment programs with supportive housing can provide an individual a safe space to heal deeper issues on their own terms.
In our experience, environmental factors are often a contributing factor for depression. When someone is struggling with deep-seated depression, successful treatment hinges on lowering overall stress levels, improving lifestyle patterns, and treating root problems like anxiety and trauma. It is often easier to identify and heal these broader issues during inpatient treatment by isolating the individual from any detrimental effects their environment might have on them.
Are you or someone you care about struggling to decide between inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment. With PCH, you don’t have to choose one or the other. Our approach combines the best of both treatment paths. Learn More
Inpatient vs. Outpatient Mental Health Treatment
To understand when inpatient treatment is necessary for depression, you have to understand the distinctions between inpatient and outpatient depression treatment. It is impossible to say that one is better than the other—instead, the individual has to decide which option is right for them.
What Is Inpatient Depression Treatment?
With inpatient depression treatment, the individual stays overnight at the facility, receiving full-time treatment without returning home in the evenings. The most significant benefit of inpatient treatment is that it provides the individual with a supportive milieu and community in which to recover.
What Is Outpatient Depression Treatment?
Outpatient depression treatment may provide the individual with access to the same treatment resources and services, but rather than staying at the facility overnight, individuals return home in the evenings to practice and integrate what they have learned.
How PCH Combines the Best of Inpatient and Outpatient Depression Treatment
PCH understands that some individuals struggling with depression may benefit more from inpatient treatment while others may require outpatient treatment. To combine the benefits of both, we offer outpatient depression treatment with supportive housing. Clients get the full benefit of milieu treatment while maintaining a sense of independence in a safe housing environment that simulates the real world.