Down at the west end of Crittenden Blvd., a stretch of roughly two miles of macadam bordered by Strong Memorial Hospital on the north and the University of Rochester campus on the south, lies a dauntingly large parking lot. Directly across from that lot is located the entrance to the Behavioral Health Facility, the wing that houses patients with mental health issues.
Once having entered through the automatic doors and turned west, you traverse a corridor roughly half a block long until you arrive at a short hall connecting two corridors. At this junction, two elevators with blue diamonds painted upon them allow access to the upper levels of the facility. The second floor, to the north, houses what is popularly known as the psych ward. There is a 15' x 15' area in front of the locked door with the metal mesh-reinforced window and the outsized handle where family members wait to be admitted.
Press the buzzer located to the left of the door - a ding-dong will sound and a desk attendant will push a button. You will hear a small click which tells you that the door is unlocked and that you may enter. As you walk in, on your left, a wall fronted by cabinets topped with battered boxes of puzzles and games presents itself. To the east is an area large enough to hold six tables and their complement of chairs. The desk is located centrally on the ward, also on your left, and you must stop there to announce the name of the patient with whom you wish to visit and to present anything you may be carrying for inspection. You must not be carrying razors, scissors, pens or pencils, or knives and/or forks. Also, any plastic bags must be left at the desk. Once you have passed inspection, you may notice a small open area west of the desk, known as the lounge, consisting of four plush chairs in a row, a small table opposite them, and a television mounted above the table. North of all of this is the lengthy east-west corridor, off of which branch all the patient rooms.
This is the ward.
Betty. Joan. Lou. Mary. Matt. Tishawna. Tricia. Xavier.
Welcome to the ward.
Alanna. Barb. Craig. Joelle. Karen. Katherine. Peter.
Welcome to the ward.
The ward is not just dimensions, a floor plan, an area in a building.
The ward is not just a set of symptoms and statistics.
The ward is a crucible - a container in which shattered hopes, dreams and lives are blended together into a new form - a form that, it is hoped, will be able to sustain those who may have been weakened or damaged, those for whom the vicissitudes of daily life have been too large to easily confront.
The ward is a workplace - a collection of co-workers all dedicated to a common goal - the healing and rehabilitation of those who are afflicted and suffering.
The ward is a community - a meeting ground where the afflicted and suffering can stand face-to-face with others like themselves, and come to understand that they are not alone - that there are others like them who share their woes.
The ward is people - common, ordinary, everyday people.
People just like you and me.