Packing Essentials for Inpatient Mental Health Treatment

what to pack for inpatient mental health treatment


When preparing for inpatient mental health treatment, knowing what to pack can help ease the transition and ensure you have everything you need during your stay. Packing essentials like comfortable clothing, toiletries, and any necessary medications is key. Additionally, bringing personal items that provide comfort, such as books, journals, or photos, can help create a familiar environment. It’s also important to consider any specific items recommended by the treatment facility, such as certain types of clothing or prohibited items. By carefully planning and packing thoughtfully, you can focus on your recovery journey with peace of mind.

These topics will be discussed in this blog:

What to bring for living in a treatment center

Entering residential treatment can be a tough time for both parents and the young person going for treatment. Before going in, they’ll learn what to expect during their stay, including what they can and can’t bring. Parents often find it hard to get their children to agree to go to residential treatment. But there are other challenges too, like the packing process. When helping your child pack, focus on things that make them feel comfortable and at home. Leave anything harmful, like drugs or weapons, at home. When they arrive at the treatment center, their bags will likely be checked for safety. Besides essentials, they should bring items to make their stay more comfortable. Though what’s allowed can vary, there are some things that most treatment centers allow.

What to Bring for Psychiatric Hospitalization: Packing Essentials

When I had to go to the hospital because of my bipolar mood swings, I found a few things helpful. Here’s what made it easier for me to deal with and start feeling better.

Unexpected Hospitalization

After we moved, something unexpected happened to me. I sat in the police car, thinking about what was going on. Did I call 911 on myself? Was I going to a psychiatric hospital?

I only had my phone and wallet in my pocket, along with a small bag with some books and clothes. I managed to gather a few toiletries too.

But since we had just moved, I didn’t know where everything was. So, I ended up with travel-size bottles for toiletries, no deodorant, and a razor that got taken away at the hospital.

I used the phone near the nurses’ station to call my husband every day. I asked for things like a softer pillow, pizza (some patients could have it), shower flip-flops, and, oh, the deodorant I forgot to pack in all the confusion.

Getting Ready for Bipolar Inpatient Care

A year later, I thought about going to the hospital again because my medication change didn’t work as we hoped. Even though we handled it at home, I kept a bag packed for two weeks, just in case I needed to go to the hospital again.

After my first five-day stay, I knew what I needed to make the hospital more comfortable. And I learned what things I couldn’t bring, like shoelaces.

So, here’s my list of things I suggest you pack for your next stay in a psychiatric hospital. I’ll use it again if I need to go back.

Packing Guide for Psychiatric Hospital Stay

  • Shower Flip Flops Wear these to keep showers clean since they might not always be super clean.
  • Blanket and Pillow Bring these for comfort since the hospital bedding might not be comfy.
  • Ear Plugs Use these if your roommate snores, so you can sleep better without bothering anyone.
  • Slip-On Sneakers Wear these because you can’t have things like shoelaces or belts in the hospital.
  • Phone List Keep a list of numbers so you can call friends and family even if you can’t have your phone.
  • Softcover Books Bring softcover books instead of hardcovers for safety reasons.
  • Softcover Journal Use this for writing down your feelings or what’s happening.
  • Reminders of Your Outside Identity Bring things like a jacket or makeup that remind you of who you are.
  • Clothes Pack enough clothes for a few days without any strings or ties.
  • Insurance Card Bring this so the hospital can charge your insurance for your stay.
  • Toiletries in Plastic Containers Bring toiletries in plastic bottles because glass and sharp things aren’t allowed.
  • Photos Bring pictures of loved ones, pets, and favorite places to make your space feel more homey.
  • Refillable Water Bottle Bring a big water bottle since the cups at the water cooler might be too small, especially if you need lots of water.

Varied Requirements and Permissions

Remember, my experiences might not match yours. I stayed on two floors and the rules were different on each. For instance, on one floor, I could have snacks, but not on the other.

Also, the rules changed a bit depending on the nurse. I could keep my toiletries when I checked in, but others had to store theirs and ask for them. People make mistakes, so expect differences.

This list should help if you’re hospitalized during a bipolar mood episode. Share any ideas in the comments to improve it.


In this insightful blog, the author shares personal experiences and practical advice on what to pack for inpatient mental health treatment, particularly focusing on bipolar mood episodes. Drawing from their own hospitalization experiences, they offer a comprehensive packing guide, emphasizing essentials like comfortable clothing, toiletries in plastic containers, and reminders of one’s outside identity to maintain a sense of self. Additionally, the author highlights the importance of adaptability due to varied requirements and permissions within different hospital units, providing a valuable resource for individuals navigating similar challenges.


Q1. What are the most severe psychiatric disorders?

A1. Some of the most severe psychiatric disorders, collectively known as serious mental illness (SMI), include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Severe, major depression (a subset of major depression)
  • Severe bipolar disorder (a subset of bipolar disorder)
  • Other disorders also fall under the category of serious mental illness.

Q2. What are some things not to say to someone with mental illness?

A2. Here are ten things to avoid saying to someone with a mental illness:

  1. It’s all in your head.”
  2. Come on, things could be worse.”
  3. Snap out of it.
  4. But you have a great life, you always seem so happy.
  5. Have you tried chamomile tea?
  6. Everyone is a little down/moody/OCD sometimes – it’s normal.
  7. This too shall pass.

Q3. How might someone feel about a loved one hospitalized for a mental disorder?

A3. It’s not uncommon for individuals to experience feelings of shame, hurt, or embarrassment when a family member is hospitalized for a mental disorder. Some may also feel anger, both towards the situation and the person diagnosed.

Q4. What are the red flags therapists look for?

A4. Therapists keep an eye out for various red flags during sessions, including breaches of confidentiality, boundaries, and licensure. Additionally, therapy may be ineffective if the therapist struggles with communication or lacks the necessary training to address the patient’s specific concerns. Patients are encouraged to address any concerns they have directly with their therapist.

Q5. What is considered one of the hardest mental illnesses to live with?

A5. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is often considered one of the most challenging mental illnesses to live with. Individuals with BPD frequently grapple with intense and overwhelming emotions, making daily life a significant struggle.

Connect with the conversation: Explore mental health blogs together:

Leave a Comment