Mind Matters: What happens if you go to the hospital for a mental breakdown?

Photo by MJFelt / iStock / Getty Images Plus; St. George News

FEATURE — When someone experiences an “acute crisis,” such as an anxiety attack, psychosis or suicidal thoughts or attempts, their journey typically begins in the emergency room. But what happens next?

Intermountain Healthcare’s mission is “Helping People Live the Healthiest Lives Possible.”  One of the ways they strive to achieve this is by providing resources to individuals who struggle with mental illness. Two of these resources are the Dixie Regional Behavioral Medicine Unit and Dixie Behavioral Access Center.

Jeremy Nielsen, a registered nurse at Dixie Regional Center, said acute crises can be brought on by family struggles, drugs or medicine, financial difficulties and trauma.

After an individual seeks help at the emergency room, they are put with a crisis worker along with a doctor. The crisis worker strives to get to know the individual, their history, what’s going on in the immediate and what may have triggered the acute crisis.

Based on the person’s immediate needs, the crisis worker will referred them to either the Behavioral Medicine Unit or the Access Center, both of which are located on the same campus.

The Behavioral Medicine Unit

The Behavioral Medicine Unit at Dixie Regional Center has been established for about 30 years. It is an “in-patient” unit containing 13 beds and offering a safe environment for individuals to seek help from a team of doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and social workers.

The duration of treatment can vary, from three to 14 days, although the average stay is roughly three to five days.

A typical day begins with a couple different therapy groups led by a therapist or a social worker teaching life skills and tools that are key to helping patients work through a mental illness. In the afternoon there is recreational or art therapy, followed by exercise therapy consisting of light exercises, stretches and workouts.

Before the individual leaves the unit, they are connected with a local counselor or therapist, and an appointment is made for a follow-up within seven days of being discharged.

Access Center

The Dixie Behavioral Access Center has been in operation for a couple years. It is open 24 hours and is targeted to individuals who need short-term help and may not require three to five days of observation. The goal is to help individuals be discharged within 24 hours of admittance.

Through intervention, we expect most patients will be stabilized and back home in less than 24 hours, depending on the level of care required,” Dr. Ben Holt said in an Intermountain Healthcare newsletter.

At the Access Center, individuals will meet with crisis workers to talk through the issue. They can meet with a psychiatrist for medications if needed, as well as a peer specialist that can help the individuals learn skills and create a Wellness Recovery Action Plan program. WRAP is a self-designed program where individuals create their own wellness toolbox, learn about various triggers and warning signs and develop a plan for when crisis hits.

It is hoped that in the near future the Access Center will be able to take walk-ins in addition to patients who are referred.

What about the cost?

One of the barriers to seeking medical help is the financial costs.

Bailey McMurdie, Intermountain Healthcare Southwest Region communication specialist, said that as a nonprofit organization, Intermountain Healthcare offers many programs for financial assistance but that they focus on helping each individual get the help they need mentally and emotionally first.

After the individual is in a good place, Intermountain is available to help individuals apply for financial assistance programs if needed.

“Most of all, we are here to help individuals, regardless of their circumstances,” McMurdie said. “There is always hope and help available.”

Written by HEIDI BAXLEY, Iron County Prevention Coalition coordinator, and LAUREN MCAFEE, Cedar City Library in the Park grant and development officer.

About the “Mind Matters” Series

As the Mind Matters series continues, we will highlight several Southern Utah mental health providers and organizations, as well as success stories, but if you or someone you know is seeking help or resources now, go to the following websites:

If you or someone you know needs helps immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911. There is help and hope available.

St. George News “Mind Matters” series aims to illuminate how mental illnesses affect society and how to maintain mental health.

Articles are contributed by Cedar City Library in the Park in partnership with the Iron County Prevention Coalition and will highlight available resources people may access in Southern Utah and online. However, if you have a success story you would like to share as part of the series, email Heidi Baxley at [email protected] or Lauren McAfee at [email protected].

Read more: All the articles in the Mind Matters series

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.


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  • comments February 3, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    I’ve got a friend works in the ER. What they’re not telling you is that the pathetic little 13 beds they’ve got are constantly filled, and more than likely they won’t even be able to get someone admitted who’s having a mental breakdown of some sort. At any given time there’s a hell of a lot more than 13 patients needing inpatient mental treatment, and the system is simply broken and not able to handle them. If you’re suicidal or whatever, take yourself to the ER, but don’t be surprised if all you get is a referral, maybe a RX for some valium, ect, and sent on your merry way, and later on a big ass bill in the mail from DRMC.

    • Jamie February 3, 2018 at 2:47 pm

      The ER is intended to stabilize someone short term pending long term treatment. If you are suicidal call dispatch and have a police officer come to your home. (Afterall, suicidal thoughts and tendencies do equate to a life or death scenerio) Depending on your situation he will best know where to guide you; whether you end up here, in a holding cell, or chained to a hospital bed at least they will help you first hand get through a psychotic episode that won’t end in such a regretful action as suicide. If you are merely depressed then make an appointment with your GP and get medicated. Mental health issues are not solved over night

      • comments February 3, 2018 at 5:08 pm

        I’m saying if there was a suicidal patient there simply may not be a place to admit them to an inpatient setting. An ER setting, including, and maybe especially the one here operate on a patch ’em up, get ’em out the door, bill ’em, and quickly take the next in line system. They may get to see a wonderful ER doc, but he may not be able to admit them to a psych bed if he wanted to. You obviously don’t understand how the system works, and how broken it is…

        • AnotherReader February 3, 2018 at 8:45 pm

          You’d be admitted to a medical bed instead, perhaps on another floor, and provided care there. Or transferred to another hospital. If you are suicidal you will not be sent packing.

          • comments February 4, 2018 at 1:30 pm

            The hospital is required by law to treat people in the ER. Besides that they don’t have to admit anyone. Hospitals in this country are first and foremost a business. If someone comes in extremely mentally distressed/unstable w/o specifically mentioning they are suicidal, and if that person can’t pay, they will be sent packing. If the person specifically mentions they are suicidal the hospital may start to worry about liability issues, but they still aren’t required to admit them. They can give them a referral, a pat on the head, and send them on their way. You people are naive about how the system actually works. The friend I had who worked at drmc’s ER SPECIFICALLY TOLD ME THEY DON’T HAVE THE RESOURCES TO TREAT ALL THE MENTALLY ILL THAT WANDER INTO THE ER. THEY DO WHAT LITTLE THEY CAN AND TRY TO GET THEM OUT OF THE BUILDING.

  • comments February 3, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    OH, AND IF YOU HAVE A GOOD, HIGH REIMBURSEMENT PRIVATE INSURANCE (ALSO KNOW AS CADILLAC PLANS) YOU HAVE A MUCH BETTER CHANCE OF BEING ADMITTED. THAT IS THE REALITY OF OUR MEDICAL SYSTEM. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    • AnotherReader February 3, 2018 at 8:48 pm

      Far from truth. Many of those beds you mentioned are often filled by those with no resources.

  • Jamie February 3, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    Don’t insult these hard working doctors and nurses like that. When it comes to emergency scenarios do you honestly think they put you on a back burner pending your payment being processed? If you are looking for a weeklong all expense paid vacation from your kids then book a room in Vegas. Otherwise, if you never have to see the inside of a mental health ward at the hospital then consider yourself very lucky.

    • comments February 3, 2018 at 5:11 pm

      Pls stop whining. I’ve dealt with the local ER a couple times, tho it wasn’t for psych issues. The impression I got is they simply don’t care. Patch ’em up quick and get ’em out the door was my experience. And I have good insurance!

  • comments February 4, 2018 at 12:50 am

    And also, the friend I have who worked there, said when they get really mentally ill people wandering in they really don’t even know what to do with them. They hate dealing with them, and it’s not like they keep a psychiatrist on call in the ER. They don’t have the resources to deal w/ them so they try and shoe them away. 13 psych ward beds for basically the whole county and beyond? It’s pathetic. I can’t even imagine how they treat the people who can’t pay.

  • Randys Sister February 5, 2018 at 7:51 am

    @ comments, you are so off base it’s not even funny. It’s asinine and ignorant. Sorry for whatever issue you had to deal with that has made you jaded, but I hope that the people that are reading your outrageous comments are taking it with a grain of salt. The only person they don’t “treat” at the ER are drug seekers, and I’m starting to wonder if that’s why you are so jaded and making these claims. Were you turned away because you abuse narcotics? It kinda sounds like it…… the truth us: they don’t turn anybody away. If the 13 beds, that you claim, are taken, they find another place for somebody who truly needs help, whether or not they have insurance or high co pays like you stated. The people that work at the hospital DO have people’s best interest at heart and are there to help people. They are great people! From the people that clean the floors to the people doing life saving surgeries. If the employees there didn’t want to help people, wanted to only do the bare minimums, and had a negative outlook on life, believe me they wouldn’t be working at the hospital: they would be hanging out with you instead. Get a life and get some perspective.

    • comments February 5, 2018 at 10:30 am

      again, you are someone who has never dealt w/ the system in the areas I’m speaking of. The hospital is there to make $$$. The employees of a hospital are there to do a job and get paid. They are not paid to care and not there to do charity work. So grow up!, Randy’s sister. And why identify as Randy’s sister? who even is Randy? ridiculous

      • Randys Sister February 5, 2018 at 12:52 pm

        Randy is a stud. And you are ignorant and jaded. I have dealt with “the system” of the hospital and know all too well that you are full of crap. Maybe you should get a real hobby besides trolling every single article on this website. Good luck with your life, comments. I hope that you can find happiness and empty your backpack of the rocks that you choose to carry with you that weigh you down.

        • comments February 5, 2018 at 2:07 pm

          Yes, but have you dealt with the mental health system specifically?

          • comments February 5, 2018 at 2:12 pm

            What they’ve got here is better than nothing, I’ll give them that. For suicidal people I’d never encourage them to not seek help, and I’d never tell a suicidal person about the poor treatment and even disregard they may receive from the local ER. It is what it is. It’s better than nothing. I actually hope the stories I’ve heard are not the way it is, but I got them right from someone who worked there. so…

            oh well i guess

          • Randys Sister February 5, 2018 at 2:20 pm

            Yes. I know the people that work there and they are great people. They are not there to shoo people away, shove people out, or take advantage of making a buck off of somebody. They are there with good hearts and great intentions for this community. I can’t speak for the nationwide mental healthcare system, but you were specific in your attacks against the people at this hospital, and I am telling you that you need to take your attacks elsewhere. They are not an accurate portrayal of the local heart of this hospital or staff here.

  • Redbud February 5, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    If you don’t have a lot of money, it is a GOOD thing the ER tries to get you out within a reasonable amount of time, if possible. If you are in the ER, you already know what’s coming next. A big bill in the mail! If you are low income, would you rather open the bill and see that $1,000 is owed, or $10,000? How will you pay it off working your minimum-wage fast food job? They get you out of the ER fast, and it’s for your own good. You are just too stupid to realize it at the time you are there. You will thank them later when your “crisis” is over with, and your new crisis is, “how am I going to pay this bill?” I do believe that most of the doctors and nurses actually care about their patients. But you are exactly right, it is a business! They do not do what they do for free, nor should they be expected to. Since you seem to be an expert on health care, how about you start up a new hospital in St. George, and provide free care for all, and pay the doctors and nurses nothing. Everything will just be done out of the goodness of their heart. See how long it lasts, and report back and let us all know how that went! You obviously live in a different reality, and you sound like one of those people that want everything spoon-fed to you.

  • comments February 5, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    One trip to the ER was for a pretty severe reaction to a new med I was prescribed. It was bad enough to where I did take myself to the ER. I won’t go into great detail, but when I described the symptoms the med had caused me I know that they thought I was a mental patient, bc the effects this med had caused were rare and they must’ve thought I was making it all up– basically they thought i was a loon and couldn’t shoo me out the door fast enough it seemed. AND I HAVE GOOD INSURANCE.

    After I was shooed out the first time I was still suffering quite a lot bc nothing had been resolved. I took myself back to back to the ER THE SAME FRICKIN NIGHT! Finally I was able to talk to a doc the gave 2 sh**s and actually got some medical treatment. TO THIS DAY I DON’T KNOW IF THE CLOWNS BILLED MY INSURANCE 2 FRICKIN TIMES FOR EACH OF THE ER TRIPS BECAUSE OF THEIR INEPTITUDE AND CALLOUS ATTITUDE TOWARDS PATIENTS. I thought afterword about filing some kind of complaint, but in the end I did not.


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