Inside the Unit

Inside the Unit

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)


J. Peters

J. Peters

Max Guttman '08, MSW '12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association. Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia. "I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery," Guttman says. "After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my 'break,' I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others." "In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients."
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