TW/CW: Psychiatric setting, Security/Police, Medical Abuse/Ableism
You walk through the two sets of automatic sliding double doors, into the mental health wing.
You leave the bitter cold air behind and enter the sterile hospital environment you have come to know so well after all these months.
When entering the front foyer, you are met with an unexpected wall of people. Acidity rises in your throat.
Your ears begin to ring as you notice, in addition to a crowd, an armed security guard to your left in full Kevlar.
Other outpatients are lined up in front of you, gathered, really, looking as confused and tense as you feel.
Candy. You shove it in your mouth. The care kit you have made for times like these, which incidentally have been trauma group homework, are full of creature comforts to ground you in the moment.
You manage to move forward in the line without bumping into anyone, then you freeze.
There are now two areas marked “check in” instead of just one.
A receptionist in the dimly lit plexiglass area straight ahead appears to beckon to you. Your health card is verified, then you are directed towards the newly created “behaviour screening” area.
You give the nurse your health card through the partition. He returns it to you by placing his pencil on top of it, pushing it towards you.
There is an enormous roll of purple wristbands to his right, the fresh symbol of a hastily implemented administrative procedure in response to a nurses’ union lawsuit.
Show any sign at all that you may somehow be a danger to others based on ambiguous criteria, and you are immediately required to wear a purple wristband for all to see.
Just to keep things fresh, each employee group has a different set of criteria deemed as flaggable behaviour. But you will not have access to this information.
You rise, and go around the corner past the Kevlar guard slumped in a chair at a table, slurping a large soda as he eyes you from head to toe.
You take deep breaths as yet another man appears before you, dressed in civilian clothes, pressing a button to open the unit doors.
You reach again for your care kit, in it a soft piece of fabric. You rub it between your fingers. Thick, soft, textured, slightly pilled from being washed, and rubbed so often.
The only things that exist in the entire world in this moment are your right thumb and forefinger, and that piece of fabric.
The double doors finally groan all the way open, granting you entry to the heart of the institution.
[Image: Large roll of purple armbands on desk, directly in front of patient, in required Behaviour Screening Area at London Health Sciences Centre]