Ep 11: Psychiatric Hospitals: A Mother’s Perspective with Deena Watson.

Our guest on the show for today is Deena Watson and she joins us to share her experiences with psychiatric facilities as the mother of a child who struggles with chronic mental health issues. When Deena’s son Brian was in between his seventh and eighth school year he experienced his first manic incident. In our conversation, Deena recounts the story to listeners, telling us about how Brain’s behavior was assessed by a series of medical professionals before he was finally admitted to a psychiatric facility. Deena shares her own experiences through the whole process too, which went from an initial feeling of fear and powerlessness to a subsequent period of learning. The facilities and people that Deena interacted with along this journey with her son’s condition gave her experiences and taught her lessons that shifted her entire perspective on what a normal life should look like. Today we hear about the place of hope that Deena finds herself in several years down the road, and the story she tells shines a new light on the positive perspectives and gratitude that people who endure such extreme trials are blessed to experience.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • How Deena entered the mental health world by discovering her son Brian’s illness.
  • What happened when Brian had his first episode and set up several shrines in the house.
  • Brian’s diagnosis that suggested his issues were not physical but psychological.
  • Limiting factors to whether a patient will get care in a psychiatric ward: space availability.
  • Intake procedures at psychiatric hospitals: advanced security, precautions, and screening.
  • What happened on the day Brian was admitted: interviews and a video conference diagnosis.
  • Deena’s emotions after leaving the hospital: guilt, fear, and powerlessness.
  • Brain’s behavior, experiences, and journey back to reality in his first week in the ward.
  • Feelings of reassurance Deena felt after visiting Brian and seeing he was peaceful.
  • Benchmarks for patient release: can patients self-administer medication?
  • Critiques of the outpatient program: it didn’t show Brian how to handle his chronic illness.
  • Support Deena found at her therapy group after realizing many peers had mental issues.
  • Challenges faced around returning to school: peer, teacher, and staff responses.
  • How the family prepared Brian to be at school again by teaching him safe words, etc.
  • Deena’s learning about who to talk to at different institutions involved in Brain’s life.
  • Lessons Deena has learned about facilities, triggers, and communication regarding Brian.
  • Realizing that hospitalization is the most safe option when Brian is manic.
  • Trust and respect Deena has for the professionals at the hospital due to their choice of job.
  • Parenting lessons: letting one’s child be who they are and becoming a better communicator.
  • How this process has taught Deena different ideas of what a life path is.
  • Reciprocally loyal friendships Deena found through going through these challenges.
  • How Deena has become far less judgmental with people who are different.


“We visited with the family therapist. I don’t even know if it was for 15 or 20 minutes, and he took us outside and he said, ‘I need you to go immediately to a psychiatric hospital. Your son needs to be hospitalized today.” — Deena Watson [0:04:03]

“I walked out of the facility and fell to the ground and just sobbed.” — Deena Watson [0:13:40]

“I’m not scared to admit him to a hospital anymore. I think its the right thing to do when I see those signs going up that he is entering a manic episode.” — Deena Watson [0:39:09]

“I don’t wish this on anybody, but in the middle of it, roses are beautiful but they have thorns. We still like roses. That’s the attitude that we have chosen to adopt.” — Deena Watson [0:45:46]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Mosaics of Mercy 

Hope Pieced Together  

Sherry Burkhard


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