Patient Privacy

All patients have the right to privacy. If your loved one is 18 years of age or older, due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), we are not able to share information about their medical condition, or whether or not they are staying with us, without their consent. A patient can give consent by signing a form that allows our care providers to disclose information. All of our care providers must comply with this law.

If you feel that you have information that will be important and helpful for the clinical staff who are treating your loved one, please share it with our care providers.

Here are some types of helpful information you can provide about your loved one:

  • Any recent changes in behavior, language, personality, daily activity, diet, physical health, or sleep patterns
  • Any changes in how your loved one interacts with others: family, friends, colleagues
  • Any changes in substance (drug or alcohol) use, including any history of substance use
  • Any family history of mental illness or substance use
  • Any recent traumatic event or form of abuse
  • Any concerns you have about their safety around themselves or others
  • Whether or not your loved one has been taking their prescribed medications
  • Anything else you think would be helpful to their treatment team

Visiting a Loved One in the Hospital


At Sheppard Pratt hospitals, each of our inpatient units has designated visiting hours. Our patients work with their clinical care team to determine the nature and frequency of the visits they would like to receive.

Each patient shall have the right to receive the visitors whom he or she designates, including, but not limited to, a spouse (including same-sex spouse), a domestic partner (including a same-sex domestic partner), significant others, parents (including same-sex parents), other family members, friends, and anybody else who plays a significant role in the patient’s life. Please consult your loved one's unit handbook for unit-specific visiting hours, age restrictions, and guidelines regarding items that may be brought in by visitors. 

Locked Units

In addition to having specific visiting hours, our units are locked: this is for the safety of our patients, and we find that having locked units is best for their path to recovery. You can access the units with the assistance of our staff only; all of our units have doorbells or intercoms to notify the team that a visitor has arrived. At some of our units, you may also need to know a ‘code word’ to gain entry; please check with the unit staff to determine what is necessary for your loved one’s unit.

Phone Calls and Staying in Touch

Most patients are permitted to use one of our designated landlines to make and receive phone calls. We also empower our patients to determine who they do and do not want to receive phone calls from. In addition, patients and residents can receive mail.

Family Participation in Treatment

Having the support of family and friends can be very meaningful for individuals in recovery. Depending on each person’s needs, the exact role that family and friends serve may change. The role you play in your loved one’s treatment depends on your relationship with them, the circumstances of their diagnosis, and much more. A member of your loved one’s treatment team will discuss with you how you can best support your loved one in their time of need. 

Tips for Talking with Your Loved One About Their Diagnosis

It can be hard to watch a loved one struggle with any kind of illness. It is important to remember that your loved one is sick: a mental illness is just that – an illness. It is not a character flaw. It is not something from which your loved one chooses to suffer. Here are a few tips for speaking with your loved one:

  • Be empathetic. Even if you have not felt how your loved one is feeling, show them that you understand that they are going through a difficult time.
  • Validate what they are feeling. Acknowledge what and how your loved one is feeling.
  • Offer support – both from you, and from outside treatment options like a doctor or therapist.
  • Research the treatment options that are available. Learn about the medical and therapeutic options that are out there. 
  • Show that you are a team and that you are there for them when they need it. 

Tips for Sharing Information About Your Loved One with Others

You shouldn’t have to feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk to others about your loved one. You also shouldn’t feel that you need to share everything (or anything). And most importantly, you should have a conversation with your loved one to discuss how much they are OK with you sharing.

When sharing information with others, here a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Be straightforward. Your loved one is sick. Talk about the mental health diagnosis like you would any other illness, including treatment and progress.
  • Be comfortable. Share only what you and your loved one want others to know – if you’re not comfortable sharing details, don’t.
  • Be strong. We are still fighting the stigma surrounding mental health, and unfortunately, that may mean you get weird looks when you tell people. Don’t stop talking; the more we talk about it, the closer we get to overcoming stigma!
  • Be empathetic. You may find that once you start talking about your loved one’s mental health issues, others will start opening up about their loved one’s experiences. Listen. It may be hard because you are focused on your own situation, but you may find it comforting to share stories and hear what others are struggling with.
  • Be kind to yourself. It’s not an easy conversation to have, and it probably won’t go perfectly. Don’t beat yourself up. There will be another conversation.

The more you share, the easier it will get. The more you share, the more you will learn. And, the more you share, the more people will understand mental health. It’s hard, but you are stronger than you think.