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Inside the Unit

Inside the Unit

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I woke up the next morning in my new strange room and my new strange bed. The room was small with institutional furniture on either side. The foam mattress was covered with hospital sheets, the corners tucked firmly underneath. There was a dresser with drawers for my clothing. No hooks on the walls. A simple desk was paired with a plastic chair. The glass window was sealed behind a steel mesh.

Rounds took place in the main seating area by the glassed-in nurses’ station. At rounds they took my vital signs, and then I waited to meet my treatment team with the other patients. When the staff on the unit first told me about the treatment meeting, I was angry. I didn’t need treatment! I was only there because of a giant misunderstanding.

When it was my turn, I entered a large conference room with a table in the center. Sitting around the table were a psychiatrist, a social worker, and a number of other people.

“Jacques, what happened?” a staff member at the table asked me point-blank.

“What?” I responded.

Then the psychiatrist cut in. “Jacques, do you know why you are here?”

“No. No, I don’t! This is a huge misunderstanding. I am not crazy. Ask my friend Brody. He will tell you. And so will my other friends,” I retorted quickly.

“A lot people are concerned about you, Jacques. Your parents, these friends, the police, the school, just to name a few.

I didn’t understand how things had escalated so quickly or become such a pervasive problem. I was later told by Shirley and Kish that there had been a meeting at the school about me. It seems after I had told Alex I wanted to shoot him, he reported it to the school social worker. I’m almost positive he didn’t report his own antagonism towards me or even the comment he had made before my threat. I am certain of one thing. I wasn’t happy with this social worker at school. Shirley and Kish said the comment had been reported “out of concern for our safety and welfare,” but I didn’t buy it. I didn’t think the school was out to get me or anything like that, but I felt like I had been misunderstood by everyone, including the social worker who pulled the trigger and called the local police.

“I’m not sick. You folks just don’t understand,” I told the clinicians.

“Would your family agree, Jacques? Can we speak with them?” the social worker asked. Even though I knew they were going to speak with them anyway because I was a minor, I agreed, hoping the conversation would put an end to all of this confusion.

Excerpt from Wales High School: First Diagnosis (J PETERS)

 

About the Author

J. Peters

Bold 10 Under 10 award recipient Jacques Peters ’08, MSW ’12 . Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), therapist and disability rights advocate, Mr. Peters fights for those without a voice in various systems of care, such as the New York City Department of Social Services, the New York State Office of Mental Health or the city’s Department of Corrections. Jacques is the author of University on Watch: Crisis in the Academy, which he published under the pen name J. Peters in 2019, and First Diagnosis, published in 2020. Jacques refers to his stance on recovery in his journal articles as “Too big to fail.” No obstacle too big, no feat out of reach, Jacques let nothing stop him in his path to recovery and healing.
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