How to Write a Letter of Complaint to a Mental Health Facility

Three Parts:Gathering Information and PlanningWriting and Formatting Your LetterRevising

Unfortunately it is occasionally when we're at our worst that folks we trust to care about the issues are the most offensive. It isn't every visit, or stay, that will bother you to the point of needing to express it. Yet when something does happen, it's important to know how to get your point across, as well as getting a response.

Part 1
Gathering Information and Planning

  1. Image titled Write a Grant Proposal Step 15
    Start by gathering the information you need. Have your discharge papers handy, your appointment card, as well as whatever else you acquired during your visit or stay. Use pen and paper or an open document to list as much information as you want to include.
    • Most mental health hospital wards will have an obvious sign and suggestion box for the patient advocate. You'll want to jot that information down; she should get a copy of your letter.
    • You should also send a copy of the letter to the doctor you had, even if your complaint is about her.
    • Third you should send a letter to someone on the facility staff management team. Their information may be hard to obtain, so if all else fails you can call the facility and ask who the head of nursing is or who the head of social work is.
    • At the end of this step you should have 3 names and 1 or 2 addresses. Postal mail seems to make more of an impact than email, but if you need to email that is okay as long as you are sure you have the right email addresses, and go for the CC option over the BCC one, that way all recipients are aware of each other and they'll be more inclined to speak about your letter than if they didn't know who else had a copy.
  2. Image titled Write a Letter for Proof of Income Step 4
    Write a rough draft that you have absolutely no intention of being your final copy. In your rough draft go ahead and express any anger or snarkiness you may have bottled up from your experience with the facility. You need to get it out, and should really not send it to the facility, so express yourself.
    • Remember to include a basis for the situations with who, what, when, where, and how answers for the issues. For instance: Matt (who) was a jerk to me (what) during art group (when/where) by only allowing me crayons (how).
  3. Image titled Write a Letter for Proof of Income Step 11
    Plan it out carefully. A letter of complaint in it's best form follows this layout:
    • To: including name, position, department, facility.
    • First paragraph of pleasantries, only alluding to the issues to come.
    • A paragraph per complaint and suggestion.
    • Then ending on another pleasant note.
    • The first and last paragraph (and perhaps a middle one depending on the length) being pleasant is very important. A wall of complaint is more likely to be ignored than a well managed emotional path through out the letter. So let it out in your rough draft, you need to be nice for the next copy!

Part 2
Writing and Formatting Your Letter

  1. Image titled Start a Letter Step 5
    In the top right corner put the date you're writing the letter. On the left write who the letter is to, in this case the patient advocate, the doctor, and the head of social work. Just like how it's better to CC than to BCC, it's best to list the intended recipients right at the top. Give them a line each with their name, title, department.
    • Occasionally you might add their phone number on their line as well. It may encourage communication between your letter's recipients.
    • List this information in a postal letter and also emails. If you don't write who the emails are being sent to it's not certain that the recipients will know each other based on email alone.
  2. Image titled Write a Grant Proposal Step 16
    Think of the first paragraph as the greeting, like a hand shake. Use the first paragraph to introduce yourself, and include some positive information on the facility. Let them know when you were there and allude to an issue.
    • Admitted to facility: "From August 14 through August 18 of this year I was on Ward C of ______ (the facility's name). During that time I received many helpful therapy lessons that have stayed with me thus far. The schedule was helpful as were most of the staff. In particular I bonded with Tiffany and found her to be very helpful. Unfortunately all my experiences at _____ ( facility name) were not as good."
    • Outpatient: "On the date of ______ I had a 2:15 appointment with Jason. I've found him to be very helpful, and I was actually looking forward to talking with him. Unfortunately he was out sick that day and I was put in an interesting situation."
  3. Image titled Start a Letter Step 7
    Give each complaint its own paragraph. Some issues are linked and can go in the same paragraph, just try to realize each paragraph should represent a new idea. When you have multiple issues consider writing about them each separately to the letter then pasting them in different positions. Remember that you're taking your reader on a journey. It's best to get your biggest issue out first, but for your lesser issues you could either cascade from worst to least, or put some of the lesser issues between large ones to break the intensity up a bit.
    • Admitted: "While I found Tiffany very nice, there were other staff members who I felt were rude. On the 15th I attended the art therapy hosted by Matt. Normally I enjoy art projects, and I was eager to try something new. We lined up for our projects. When it was my turn Matt handed me a coloring book and crayons. I told him that I'd prefer working with beads and he told me to go sit down. Please note that the people both in front and behind me were allowed to choose their project. Feeling so disrespected, I left the therapy which I usually enjoy the most. That wasn't the only time Matt was rude in a way that I felt was specific to me. During one of our courtyard breaks Matt told me where to sit, though everyone else sat where they wanted and walked around. I felt singled out by Matt then and on other occasions as well."
    • Outpatient: "When I told the secretary that I had arrived for my 2:15 with Jason she threw her hands in the air and loudly expressed, "He's not even here!" I wasn't sure if I had the right day, so I asked and was rudely told that he was out that day. I asked if I could reschedule which was followed by an awkwardly long silence as she typed, I began to think she forgot about me and started to leave when she barked at me, "Where are you going?" She said she could get me in with Rodney at 2:25. I wasn't interested in starting with a new therapist so I began to tell her I'd rather reschedule for Jason. She angrily insisted that according to my insurance I was required to attend therapy that day. That didn't sound right to me, but I didn't want to cause a scene. Around 2:45 I went back to the window and asked her if Rodney was running behind schedule. She clapped her hand over her mouth and said, "Oh no. I forgot to tell him!" I then insisted I be rescheduled with Jason, which suddenly was no longer an issue."
  4. Image titled Write a Letter for Proof of Income Step 9
    End on a positive note. Note that if you end on a negative note you are less likely to get a response, or anything changed. If your goal in writing this letter is to express your concerns in a way that leads to discussion and change end positively. If you don't want a response and don't care about changing anything why are you writing the letter?
    • Admitted: "My time at ____ (facility name) helped me when I really needed it. I am grateful to the helpful staff. I even liked your cafeteria food! I just hope positive change can come from my negative experiences."
    • Outpatient: "Your facility is very busy, I realize that. This was the first time I've experienced such disrespect at ___ (facility name). I know I will continue my services with Jason."
  5. Image titled Write a Letter for Proof of Income Step 12
    Sign it, then under your name add your contact information.
    • "Regards, ______ (Your signature), ____ (your contact information)"
    • "Best Regards ________"
    • "Looking forward to your response, _______"

Part 3

  1. Image titled Write a Letter of Intent Step 8
    Leave the letter alone and let it simmer for a day or so. When you go back to read it after having a bit of time away from it you're more likely to catch any grammar or spelling mistakes you may have made. You may also think of better ways of saying some things and want to tweak it a little bit.
  2. Image titled Apply for a PhD in the US Step 21
    When you're satisfied, send the letter. Remember if you can easily print and send by postal mail that is the best way, three envelopes, three stamps. It's easier and cheaper to send an email, but correspondence of this sort through postal mail remains more professional.


  • Rough drafts are always a good idea!
  • Spend some time away from your letter before sending. A day should do it. Read one last time checking for errors.
  • Know the names of your recipients. An unnamed complaint has no one in charge of handling it.
  • Begin and end on a positive note!
  • Don't forget to let them know how they can reach you.


  • Re-read your letter with different tones of voice in mind. The reader will assume you have a more negative tone if you don't start and end on a positive note. Be careful to avoid an accusatory or angry tone.
  • Depending on the issues the hospital may send you a packet to fill out, request a phone interview, or continue an email conversation.

Article Info

Categories: Letters | Official Writing and Complaints