When you’re admitted to a mental health hospital, there are a few things that almost every facility won’t let you bring with you — or that they will confiscate. Things like hoodie strings, shoelaces and shaving razors (and other sharp objects) are banned. In most cases, you’ll also have to hand over your phone. Beyond some of these commonalities, the rules for what you can and can’t bring are different from hospital to hospital.
While many of the restrictions make sense to keep patients safe, the list of rules for what you can’t have at the mental health hospital can be lengthy. They might ban everything from stuffed animals, to personal care products, radios, accessories like sunglasses or hats, your own medication, flowers or jewelry. It can be especially difficult to be without some of these objects, because they provide comfort when you’re really struggling, remind you of the people you love and in some cases, make sure you’re able to manage your other health conditions.
Everyone’s experience — and what they were allowed to have while in the hospital — is different. And sometimes knowing you’re not alone when you learn your favorite stuffed animal or wedding ring can’t stay with you makes the indignity and pain a little easier to bear. To find out some of the more surprising items people were not allowed to bring with them after being admitted to a mental health hospital, we asked The Mighty community.
Here’s what our community wasn’t allowed to have in the hospital:
1. Stuffed Animals
“They had to run my stuffed animal through an X-ray before I could take it in. Because sometimes people hide things inside them.'” — Kaitie A.
“My stuffed dog. It looks exactly like one of my dogs and I always go to them for comfort.” — Shelby V.
“Comfort items like blankets or stuffed animals. They made my dad take it back to his truck.” — Phaedra-Rey J.
2. Reading Light
“A book light. It was rechargeable so there were no batteries and it held charge forever, so no need for a cord.” — Andrea G.
3. Medical Equipment
“They also were hesitant to allow me to have my portacath accessed because of the needle. I need daily infusions and they wouldn’t allow that either because they claimed they couldn’t get it approved.” — Gina G.
“My CPAP machine. I was allowed to use it, but I had to be [supervised] with it. I didn’t have it for the first five days of my stay (which I was actually OK with having a break from). When my family brought it, the floor had to do an extensive check of the machine, watch me hook it up and I was [supervised] the entire time I used it.” — Katie H.
“I have top dentures my husband had to bring them and my supplies for them to be locked away and I could only get them when a nurse had time to supervise me putting them in or taking them out.” — Becky T.
4. Your Own Medications
“My bedtime meds! Then my morning meds! It made me worse off with the withdrawals! I was furious, but couldn’t stop crying so they put me on suicide watch! I will never go back to that hospital again. And this happened this year! Very scary.” — Kim E.
“No medication. Not even for acid reflux or asthma.” — Jamie W.
5. Underwire Bras
“My bra. I had a choice though — either go braless or let them cut the underwire out. I let them take the wire. That and the strip search felt so violating.” — Victoria D.
“One time I went in I was not allowed my bra. I’ve never not been allowed to have my bra before and being a large chested woman I felt so… exposed without one. I was so uncomfortable the whole time.” — Mackenzie W.
“They took my bra, because of the underwire, shoes because of the laces and made me take the string out of my hoodie.” — Elizabeth C.
“A regular underwire bra. When I went in, I had sports bras, but one of the other girls there said her bra was altered so there were no straps.” — Raven A.
6. Chewing Gum
“Chewing gum. They were worried that people might put it into the door locks so they wouldn’t be able to unlock the door.” — Katie P.
7. Glasses or Contact Lenses
“My wire prescription glasses. They said they would provide proper glasses in plastic… Then they realized I require high myopic specialty lenses that would put them out $400 dollars and they gave me mine back real quickly.” — Bailey S.
“While in the emergency department while waiting for placement, I was not allowed to have my glasses. Which were plastic frames and lenses. I cannot see without them. They had them for almost 24 hours.” — Tara S.
8. Wedding Ring
“My wedding ring… And I had to remove all my body jewelry.” — Denise M.
9. Feminine Products
“Tampons. I might have soaked them in something. Really? How does one do that without them swelling up and becoming unusable?” — Kat W.
“Tampons were not allowed on my unit, nor were pens and pencils!” — Mary M.
10. Comfort Blanket
“My security blankie. I know it sounds silly, but, yes, I am a 34-year-old with a blankie still. It’s the #1 thing that calms me down, especially when I am having bad anxiety or a panic attack. I was told it wouldn’t be an issue, but when I got there, they refused to let me keep it. I even told them they could wash it (even though I really didn’t want them to!) if it was for sanitary reasons, but they just said absolutely no.” — Sarah M.
“My baby blanket. It’s tiny and used to be my sister’s before she passed.” — Summer R.
“My book. I’m a reader and a book to me like a security blanket. I had to leave the book I was reading at the time with my mom. But then I get in the common room and there are books on a bookshelf. I was beyond pissed because no one could explain why my paperback book wasn’t allowed but these books on the shelf were.” — Evonne P.
“They didn’t let me bring my Bible.” — Martha B.
“Books, they said the therapist would look through the books and see if they were appropriate ‘in my condition.’ My stuffed animal. Letters from my dad (he sent letters while I was there, they threw them away).” — Haley S.
“My books and my journal… both of which help me get a better handle when I feel my anxiety and depression taking hold of me.” — Isaura V.
12. Family Photos
“I had to fight to keep my family photos and stuffed animals.” — Morgan C.
13. Stress Balls
“A foam stress ball.” — Barbs U.
14. Your Own Clothing
“[Not allowed] more than three days worth of clothes.” — Suzanne E
“Stuffed animals or a sports bra… Couldn’t wear own clothes either, had to wear scrubs.” — Summer S.
15. Your Own Underwear
“In one of my experiences, I wasn’t allowed to wear any of my own clothes, not even my own undergarments… It felt truly humiliating to wear the disposable underwear provided and no bra.” — Cora D.
“My underwear. Plain, full coverage undies. Their version of underwear was horrible! I was much better off going commando under my scrubs. At least I got my wire-free bra during the day.” — Courtney H.
16. Personal Toiletries
“They took away my travel size shampoo and conditioner leaving me with their hand soap to wash my hair and lotion for conditioner. I learned the lotion trick from other patients.” — Amy H.
“My cosmetics, shampoo and soap. Apparently in the past people have snuck in alcohol in makeup and shampoo bottles. It’s obviously not a life-or-death issue, but it would have been nice to have familiar scents and continue using my own products, especially since I have sensitive skin. Having my own cosmetics would have helped me feel a little more like my ‘normal self’ in a novel environment.” — Lily C.
17. Hairbrush and Other Grooming Products
“A hairbrush, makeup. When you feel bad enough and aren’t able to brush your hair and put make up on, it brings you down even more.” — Jenn G.
“Hair ties! They kept crappy, tiny rubber bands, like the kind you put in a toddler’s hair, at the nurse’s station, and you could only have two at a time. My thick hair broke through at least five a day. I just wanted my hair out of my face!” — Julie C.
Since every situation is different, you or your loved ones can usually find a list of what you can and can’t have with you on your hospital’s website. Look for a menu option that says something like “what to bring,” or “admissions.” If you can’t find anything online, you or a loved one can call the hospital to get more information.
Going to the hospital for your mental health is already scary and invasive enough. Seemingly ridiculous restrictions hospitals impose on what you can bring with you don’t help. Know you’re not alone, and don’t be afraid to reach out to those you trust to support and advocate for you when you’re struggling.
What’s something surprising you weren’t allowed to bring with you to a mental health hospital? Let us know in the comments below!
For more on what to expect when you’re hospitalized for your mental health, check out these other Mighty articles:
- 6 Things to Bring With You If You Are Hospitalized for Your Mental Health
- What You Need to Know Before Your First Psych Hospital Admission
- 10 Ways to Support a Loved One in a Psychiatric Hospital