Psych ward stories are as old as psych wards themselves, and their long, storied and notorious history makes them fascinating for us. There are movies and TV shows, like American Horror Story and Girl, Interrupted, that are set in psych wards that have cemented themselves in pop culture and history. Even if they stick in our heads for all the wrong reasons and make us not want to close our eyes at night, these stories show us the dark side of humanity. Some of these dark stories are about redemption and wellness and have happy endings, but a good chunk of these stories are definitely not those stories. These are stories that will really ruin your day, so if you’re not okay with that, it’s best to tag out now. Without any further ado, here are fifteen of some of the worst psych ward stories on the internet.
15. “Slow Motion Tiger”
It took a long time to narrow down the stories I found to fifteen, between actual stories of people I know and the tales that circulate around the internet. However, some stories really stood out, like this one that made the rounds on Reddit:
“I was in one once for about 2 weeks after threatening (not attempting) suicide. There was a girl, she was early 20’s, and I was curious as to why she was on the children’s floor. Apparently, the girl was seriously messed up in the head and had been there since she was 10. Her parents were either rich or has great insurance because she was there 24/7 for over 10 years. She would flip out the night of any new arrivals (like, she was screaming up and down the halls the night I arrived and then was fine until a few days later when a new girl arrived)
“When my uncle was in a psych ward for severe depression there would be this room that everyone would socialize in. It was kinda sad because they were all just sleepy and calm from all the medication they were on. They’d just stare at you and slowly look away.
There was an incident where I was visiting him in his room, and I turn around to see a whole bunch of them peeking in the doorway. When they saw me looking at them they darted away like scared rabbits, but when I had my back turned they’d creep again. The nurse said they don’t see outsiders visit the ward often, most of the time their family just dumps them there and forgets about them.
12. “Most Terrifying Week Of My Life”
Some of these stories are basically impossible for me to expand upon, or for anyone to expand upon for that matter, so I will present this next story about the worst roommate story I’ve ever heard without comment.
“I was in a psych ward for 10 days for attempting suicide. I had the most terrifying experience of my life there. I was only 17 at the time and in a pretty bad mental state, which made the following even more disturbing for me. On the first day that I got there, I was assigned a roomate named John. He seemed pretty nice at first, and showed me around the hospital and helped me out while I was new. Something didn’t seem right about him though, he would stare into the distance for long periods of time, mouth open, drooling; until I eventually asked if he was okay. The second night I was there, he informed me that he was a “satan worshiper” and had the ability to talk to the devil. This kind of freaked me the fuck out, mainly because he claimed that the devil and other demons were whispering to him all the time. This disturbed me, and I started to keep my distance from him. He stayed in our room (which by the way had its own private bathroom) for most of the evening, while I played basketball with the other patients to relax. When I had to come in for the night and went into my room, I noticed that John wasn’t in bed, and the bathroom door was locked. Then it struck me that the room had been absolutely demolished. The beds were on its side, and on the back of the headboard was a huge pentagram carved into the wood. Naturally I started to be concerned, so I knocked on the bathroom door. I heard John making really weird noises and talking to someone in there. I waited 20 minutes to see if he came out, but he didn’t. The weird noises that he was making grew louder and he kept laughing and talking to someone, or something. Eventually I decided to open the bathroom door, because they did not have locks on the inside so patients couldn’t hide. When I opened the door, I saw John covered in blood, naked on the floor, eyes wide open staring at me. He had smashed the mirror in the bathroom and used the shards to carve deep gashes up his arms and legs. There was blood everywhere. I thought he was going to die, so I immediately rushed in and tried to help him up. BIG mistake. When I came near, he grabbed my arm and stabbed me with a piece of the mirror. I screamed, which caused the nurses to come rushing in and restrain him. He was laughing like a mad man. They brought him to the hospital for his cuts and I got stiches. I later got a new room, and new room mate. The weirdest part? He came back 7 days later, but stayed in a different ward for psycotics; He came up to me at dinner and had no recollection of the event. Most terrifying week of my life.”
11. “By Far The Worst Job Of My Life”
This former psych ward intern was very clear that this was the worst job that they’d ever had, not only because of the conditions and the job description, but because it was so hard to know what the patients had been through and sometimes work with their abusers. When asked what the craziest story they had actually was, they had this to say:
“One kid had been subjected to such horrific abuse that he could barely communicate. I’m talking literal torture, being chained up like a dog for months, as well as repeatedly raped. Apparently his mom had done the worst of it (and was still in prison), but his dad had been involved too. Here’s the weird part. The dad came in on a weekly basis — he would have come in every day if it had been allowed — and visited his son, read to him, worked on projects for school, etc. I was all set to hate the guy but it was obvious after a while that he was sincerely trying to help. I never knew what caused him to do the things he did, but I had to respect him for making the effort to repent.”
10. “Attempt To Stop Hallucinating”
This story is short and to the point, but I guarantee you that it will stay with you. This former worker told a story of one man dealing with such awful hallucinations that he was willing to do anything to stop them:
“There are plenty of stories of people being ejaculated on, that just happens all the time.
But one time they had a guy who was hallucinating, and they gave him meds to try to knock him out so he would just sleep – however that was not working. After they served dinner they went to collect the garbage, and noticed the spoon missing, a plastic spoon mind you. This man literally removed his eyeballs with the plastic dinner spoon in an attempt to stop hallucinating.”
9. “Mood Whiplash”
One worker attempted to keep things light:
“I worked with a 50 yr old white female, she had downs and early onset Alzheimers, and looks very typical downs syndrome (it’s obvious by looking at her that she is low cog). By far one of the most challenging direct care clients I’ve had. Which is saying a lot. She was an escape artist & loved loved loved to steal. Esp soda and mail. Anyways… She escaped one late afternoon from the house (despite all doors and windows being alarmed) and went to the liquor store about 3 blocks away. Chugged a 6 pack of PBR in front of the two store clerks and then grabbed another 6 pack and run back home. I was out looking for her (liquor store was my 2nd stop after macdonalds) and when she came back into the house she ran upstairs into the bathroom and barricaded herself in and the other staff heard her chugging the rest of the beer. She is less than 5 feet and consumed 12 beers within 30 or 40 minutes. Obviously in a group home she normally doesnt drink. She danced around and giggled for a while, & then passed out. The kicker? She later yelled at me belligerently for making her feel dizzy and like she was dying. One of my less heavy stories.”
However, when people went out of their way to ask this person for a heavy story, the worker finally obliged.
“One woman with MR enjoyed being restrained by the large black support staff (this is at residential program for adults) so we were trying to decrease her # of restraints (partially b/c it creeped the guy out, she would moan in pleasure and try and grind on them when being restrained) and when her normal shtick didn’t work she punched thru a wall, pulled out the fiberglass insulation and started rubbing in her eye. She got what she wanted, she got restrained. But now has a glass eye.”
Both of these stories were in the same thread. I don’t know about you, but I think this is some pretty dramatic mood whiplash. First, we’re hearing a story about an elderly female escape artist, and then we’re hearing about a patient that wanted to be restrained so badly, she lost an eye.
8. “Stinks To High Heaven”
This person didn’t actually work at a psych ward, but was a plumber who often found themselves working at the local mental hospital. He also attempted to keep things light, but considering he posted his more humorous story on Reddit, that didn’t last long. When he was asked to tell his darkest story that could be considered the worst thing he’s ever seen, he finally told the story, and for one, I kind of wish I’d never read it. However, I did read it, so you have to, too:
“About two years ago, I was called out to the same hospital ward. They were complaining about toilets and showers backing up the whole ward. So me and my coworker who was also my roommate at the time get up and head out because it is about 2 am in the morning. We are quite pissed because the past two weeks has been nothing but back to back calls of these loonies throwing shit down the toilets. I’m talking paper towels by the roll, latex gloves, toothbrushes and anything else they can get there hands on. But this special night I saw one of the worst things I have ever seen.
So we get to the ward and the whole place stinks to high heaven. We crawl under the building and release the main line so that the ward at least isn’t backing up. We then take our jetter ( which is a pressure washer hooked to a high pressure hose with a nozzle that can cut through just about anything that backs up the sewer) and we try to busy through whatever was clogging the line up. So after a few hundred paper towels we hit something that doesn’t want to break. We get the high powered metal snake, a bigger version of the ones you can rent to DIY. Now the snake head was two hacksaw blades that spin around rather quickly to cut up and grab ahold of whatever the clog is.
What we pulled out, and I shit you not was a shredded fetus. Now you hear rumors about people having Walmart abortions and I’ve heard old men stories shooting the shit but it was the most fucked up thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Worst part was getting the torn up thing off my snake.”
7. “Some Of The Stories That Stick Out”
This person went the opposite way that the last two did, and instead of offering up a lighter story only to pivot onto a heavier one, they immediately told darker stories, but kept them short and sweet so we could get the full impact of each and every one.
“Worked in a residential community for adults with special needs for a few years. I’ll just highlight some of the stories that stick out.
-One resident stole markers/pens/pencils/anything not bolted down (I taught art and ‘academics’). He hid them in his socks, feigned that he couldn’t walk and would take off in a full sprint if I asked for my markers back. Oh, he also hid sausage in his socks.
-2 residents caught having s*x, how they were caught, you ask? He had poison ivy across his whole backside, and she had it on her knees. She had Downs and was horribly mean when we wouldn’t let her sit near the men.
-One of the residents who was confined to her bed had a worker go buy her a vibrator and lube. Actually, it was her family who requested it. Now, I know you’re thinking ‘that’s not so bad!’, what’s bad is when she would finish her ‘alone time’, she would throw the slimy vibrator at the nurse and tell her to ‘wash my d*ck, you n****r!’ That nurse was a saint.
-Got my head smashed into a metal door frame by a giant 6’5″ autistic guy, blacked out, came to, and still made him get off the computer to go to lunch. Went to write an incident report, my manager told me not to as she didn’t want him getting into trouble.
The worst, though, was the administration. I loved my residents and working with them. Management made it impossible to continue to work for them. Final straw was when the ‘doctor’ that came every 2 weeks and spent a total of 30seconds-2 minutes with each resident and alter their medications based on that… dumb b*tch ended up giving a resident 2 meds that should not have been mixed. He ended up in the hospital and was basically a vegetable walking around. Broke my heart.”
6. “Smiling Like Nothing Is Wrong”
One former med student found themselves doing their clinical hours at a mental hospital, and they had no problem offering up a detailed story of the worst thing that they’d ever seen. This story actually taught me something about a certain medical device that I really didn’t know, and it’s a thing that you’d need to know to understand quite how horrifying this story is.
Have not officially been employed by a Mental institution, but have done my school clinical hours at one. The worse/craziest thing I have seen was with an older male patient suffering from dementia and a slew of other issues. He was on bed rest and also partially restrained with a Sitter ( a nurse who sits with the patient and watches them 24/7). The Sitter needed to use the restroom and asked me and another student to watch the patient. We agreed. Around 2 minutes into being into the room with him, the patient reaches down with his free hand and starts to tug on his catheter (catheters are tubes inserted into the urethra in order to empty urine from the patients on an ongoing basis). Before we could move closer to the bed, the patient full on rips that catheter out of his penis/urethra…. Now, to take a second to explain something. Catheter are inserted and when they are fully inside you a small balloon is filled with saline solution. This is done in order to keep the catheter in place. Before you remove catheters, you have to deflate the balloon in order to avoid pain/damage.
Back to the story, the patient ripped that catheter out of his urethra. It is quickly followed by a gush of blood and urine. So now the patient is covered in blood and his own urine, all over his hand, his legs, his genitals, his bed. Holding the catheter in one hand, he lays there smiling like nothing is wrong. Just thinking about the incident kinda makes me faint in the head still.”
5. “The Tip Of The Iceberg”
One worker told a story about a new patient, and the journey they went through to get her well. While they succeeded in making progress with her, not only was it a task that was sometimes fraught with horror, it was a story that ended up in tragedy, anyway.
“I work with adults that have disabilities and violent behaviors. The people I work with would be in a mental hospital if it were 30 years ago but legislation has since closed most stereotypical mental hospitals and now those patients are in programs like the one I work at.
Anyway.. We got a new patient at work one day. Her parents had adopted her from an orphanage as an infant, then later found out she had autism and severe mental retardation.
Headed down the hall to my work station and there she stood. Stark naked, hands between her legs gripping on her labia. She pulled so hard that her labia split open right above her clitoris. She was incredibly violent, but a year of behavior management and she was a quiet girl sitting at her desk doing her work. She was our greatest challenge and our greatest accomplishment. She died soon after due to a medication error at home.
4.”Bureaucracy Grinds Slowly”
This story is much shorter, but it scared me more than all of these other stories combined, because it doesn’t just tell a disturbing story, it sheds light on how hard it is to fix a mistake as egregious as this one:
“California state hospital. A somewhat goofy kid visited his girlfriend, who was a “guest” of the hospital, from 9AM to 7PM every day. One night the guards saw him leaving the grounds on foot and took him for an escapee. It took them more than an hour to catch the youngster among the tomato and lettuce fields. Since he had no ID, he was medicated and kept for several days while his identity was verified. Bureaucracy grinds slowly.”
I seriously cannot imagine having to go through something like that. I’m also not quite understanding why it took days to verify his identity, because all they would have to do is check their patient files and find his file nonexistent. Even better, they could have remembered him visiting his girlfriend every day.
3. “Punches To The Nose For Two Years”
This story creeped me out, not just because it’s ridiculously abusive and disturbing, but because it took two years to stop.
“My mom worked at an asylum in college when getting her degree in special education. So the story goes that my mother is working there and hears wind of a man would had been arrested previously for assault on women or something of the sort. And his type for the kind of women he liked were blonde and blue eyed, as my mother is. Well, he notices my mom and from then on liked to walk up to her and punch her in the nose. When there were other orderlies around, he’d end up cornering her somewhere and punch her in the nose. Sometimes he would fake her out and just put her into a secluded corner by herself until she could grab the attention of someone, but this continued on for two years and has left my mother with a semi-crooked nose.”
Something about this one disturbs me more than most, just because it really shouldn’t take two years to resolve an issue like this. It would be perfectly easy just to get the poster’s mom away from the patient doing that to her and make sure she wasn’t in a part of the ward the patient would be at. Also, what’s really scary about this is that the patient did it just to intimidate her, which is just ridiculously abusive behavior and it adds a whole sense of malice to the situation. He wasn’t just a patient taking out frustrations on a staff member, he was a predator specifically targeting and intimidating her.
2. “Not A Good Experience”
This former patient found themself volunteering to stay the night in a psych ward to get their head right when they found themselves dealing with a massive panic attack at sixteen that left them feeling like they’d self harm, which was a worry after four months of being clean from self harming behavior. However, one night turned into a few days because the intake nurse got one word wrong on their form. That one word ended up putting a teenager through a pretty hellish experience:
“I went through an interview over a webcam with someone in a different hospital about my history with depression, and this person wrote the wrong term on my form–suidical intent rather than suicidal ideation. We were told I could stay in a ward for a few days, and were not told it would be a locked ward. When we got there, we saw that it was a locked ward and requested to speak to the intake person because it was not what I wanted or needed and my family knew this. The intake person promptly made me cry, called me belligerent because I was crying, and threatened me with the police if I did not agree to go into the locked ward, based on the erroneous term on the form.
I spent six days in there. Many of the nurses were kind. my supervising psychiatrist was not. She repeatedly told me that my anxiety meant I would never be able to function in the real world, assumed I was lying when I told her about my still-very-good grades (in spite of two months of near-constant, horrible panic), was repeatedly very rude to my mother, told me that my parents would want me to be in the ward (while they were actively fighting to get me out) and other things of that nature. They drew blood twice a day, including in the middle of the night, which left me with a mild phobia of needles.
They insisted that I go back to school DIRECTLY after getting out; that was one of the conditions of my release. That meant that I took four tests the day after I got out of the psych ward, lol. And they gave me the wrong prescription, which resulted in me missing another seven days of school because the medicine they gave me was eating away at the lining of my stomach.
1. “Never Got Around To It”
This story might very well be the scariest of them all, because it enables everything else on on this list to happen. One Reddit user on the subreddit Explain Like I’m Five (which is a subreddit I cannot recommend higher, because you will learn some cool things) asked just why mental healthcare in the US is so messed up (and any US resident who’s dealt with anything even remotely related to mental health knows this) and got an answer that really disturbed me.
“In the 1960’s we came to realize that our mental institutions were generally terrible places full of misery and torment for the patients. We started closing these places down in an act that was seen as merciful for the patients. Unfortunately, plans to replace all these institutions with quality care facilities never materialized. They had intended to open up new institutions, but just never got around to it. As a result, jails have become the primary care facilities for the mentally ill. Their inability of mentally ill people to cope with society’s rules lands them in institutions that place a priority on punishment over rehabilitation. If I recall correctly, at least a quarter of prison inmates are thought to be mentally ill and incapable of taking care of themselves in the real world.:
A debate was had in the comments of that answer, which led to a sad observation from another commenter:
“Everything is basically a business in the United States. Until they can figure out how to monetize mental health care, it will continue to be under funded and under staffed.”
That, I think, is the scariest part of the mental health saga. While there are mental health professionals doing a fantastic job all over the country, they’re doing it despite their working conditions, not because of them. The mental health stigma in this country and all over the works is costing patients big, and that is enough to ruin my day.