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4 Tips for a Healthy Transition from Inpatient Mental Health Care Settings to Community Living

The transition from an inpatient mental health care setting back into the community can lay the foundation for a lifetime of continued success. However, without the proper supports, leaving inpatient care can cause a dangerous cascading effect, from exacerbating mental illness issues to increasing the risk of patient suicide.

According to the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the suicide death rate for patients leaving inpatient psychiatric care is 300 times higher than the general population’s in the first week of discharge, and 200 times higher in the first month. And, according to a 2017 study cited by Action Alliance, one out of seven individuals who committed suicide were shown to have been involved with inpatient mental health services in the year preceding their death.

That said, it is highly important that the transition period from inpatient to community living is managed with intention and strategy.

The Momentum program, which proudly celebrates its 3-year anniversary with Rocky Mountain Human Services in July 2021, is invested in improving patient outcomes by supporting the transition of children and adults from inpatient mental health institutes, homes and other care settings back into community living.

Based on the program’s rooted experience, here are four tips to help ensure a healthy transition from an inpatient mental health care setting back into community living.

1. Maintain inpatient schedules. To make the transition from an inpatient setting back to community living the least disruptive as possible, try to incorporate the same daily structure into life outside of the inpatient care setting. This includes mealtimes, recreation activities, skill building and bedtimes. This continuity will help manage the gap between settings and maintain positive structures and routine-based best practices.

2. Promote patient engagement. Approximately one-third of patients with severe mental health issues will digress and step back from their continued care. This can include missing appointments, not connecting with healthcare providers or an overall lack of awareness of available resources. This type of disengagement can happen for several reasons, but to help avoid it, it is important to keep the patient highly involved in communication and treatment decisions being made. This approach will help to increase a feeling of personal investment, higher levels of motivation and boosted engagement.

3. Prioritize aftercare. It can be far too easy to become lackadaisical about follow-up care and therapeutic services after being release from an inpatient setting. Whether it be feeling like additional care is unwarranted, a belief that outpatient care just isn’t working or a lack of available bandwidth or free time, but ongoing care is a critical component to a successful transition back into the community. In fact, studies show that patients who attend a follow-up appointment within the first seven days after discharge are much more likely to continue pursuing continued health care and stay on their medications than those who wait 30 days or more to pursue a follow-up appointment. Therefore, it is imperative to begin discussing what comes next and securing aftercare while patients are still in a facility setting. Plans and appointment should be made as soon as possible, and continued appointments should be solidified before the patient leaves that first follow-up session.

4. Emphasize meaningful connections. Strong human connections serve as an integral component to a healthy life, both physically and mentally. According to Stanford University, people who feel connected to others experience lower levels of depression and anxiety, while also benefitting from higher self-esteem, increased empathy and are more prone to trust and cooperate with others. For those transitioning out of a mental health care facility, human connection is one of the most prominent indicators of continued success. Cultivating and maintaining relationships with family and peers with similar life experiences can help to ensure social and emotional support when needed and promote a sense of hope and desire for ongoing recovery.

It’s easy to lose hope coming out of a mental health care facility. There can be a deep sense of depression, isolation and not knowing who to trust or turn to when additional support is needed.

The Momentum care team takes a personalized and collaborative approach to assess the needs and goals of individuals and families, create care plans, build support systems and identify community resources to help ensure a lifetime of continued wellness for transitioning patients. Peer Specialists are also available to provide unique support and advocacy to clients based on their own similar life experiences.

The dedicated Momentum staff are located throughout Colorado and their workforce is mobile to better support people transitioning out of mental health facilities. Our Care Managers and Peer Specialists work directly with clients and staff in mental health care facilities, and with families and clients in the comfort of their own homes and communities.

Learn more about the Momentum program at RMHS.

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