Short Story Submission: Baker Acted

Kevin Luhrs

This student submission was originally published in the Fall 2018 “Culture of UNF Issue”. 

My name is Kevin Luhrs and, like millions of Americans, I suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. There are a multitude of traumas that still haunt me to this day, but I’ll tell you the story of one that I feel is relevant to a hot button issue today.  First, however, I must give you some context:

I grew up in a broken household.  For years, my mother had been looking for a home to move me and my brother to in order to get us away from my father, but we obviously had to keep that a secret from him. She found that home and we moved out one night in November 2011. I was 14 years old.

That next March, I got in trouble with a friend in class and was sent to the office of the school resource officer at my middle school. I was not arrested, but my history teacher wanted me to chat with him. We talked a bit about various things but, most importantly, I confided to him about my parent’s divorce, which I believe now was a mistake.

A couple of Fridays later, I had been sent to the Vice Principal’s office. I was roughhousing with a friend and had been ordered to mop up the cafeteria floor, which I had no experience in. Instead, I decided to sit down and was then sent to the office. I was ordered to call my mother to pick me up. I was angry, and I got progressively angrier when kids outside started laughing at my conversation, so I yelled at them “don’t make me come out there.” They then cleared out the office, called the school resource officer down, and he stood in the doorway as I calmed down and finished my phone call. I remember putting the phone down on the receiver, and it fell off. I picked it up and put it back.

When I walked out, the resource officer grabbed me by my shoulder and skinny wrists and slammed me against the wall. He put handcuffs on me and brought me down to his office. He claimed that I had committed several criminal offenses, such as criminal mischief and disrupting a school function. He took off the handcuffs and offered me KFC, which he was having for lunch. He then asked his superior if he could Baker Act me, which allows police officers, judges, mental health professionals, and physicians to institutionalize someone they believe to be a danger to themselves or others. His superior confirmed that he could, and after 15 to 20 minutes I was in the back of his squad car. He drove to me to an institution called the “Mental Health Resource Center” on Beach Boulevard. When I walked inside, I remember hearing screams from girls in the next room. It was as if they had lost any and all sense of sanity and social conformity.

“I’ll see you on Monday, Kevin,” the officer said after I checked in.

He left and I was taken into a room where a doctor asked me questions. He checked my arms and my thighs to see if I self-harmed. He then made me relinquish my shoelaces and my hoodie, which I had always worn for comfort and safety. I was taken into a large room with several TV’s, patients working on art therapy, and a desk in the back. I was told to sign a contract, which I did not read.

What immediately happened after that is a blur, but I remember three instances over the next couple of hours: the first was telling the nurses standing around that I was not “crazy” and that I did not belong there.

“No one here is crazy, they’re just troubled,” one nurse told me.

They then assured me that a nurse would be there later that night and that I could talk to her about being released. That nurse didn’t come until noon the next day.

The second instance was talking to my mother in tears over the phone and asking her to call my friend, who later ended up becoming my girlfriend.

The last instance involved my roommate, who was in there for physically assaulting his mother. We talked, and I went to sleep, afraid of him. We talked in the morning, and he made me promise to be more open about life, to try new things. I was released at noon and my mother picked me up at around 12:30.

Yesterday, I walked to the corner store, and there were two officers talking to a man. I started to shake and I took out my earbuds. I was afraid that they’d talk to me, and I don’t know what would happen if I were placed in that position. Sometimes I have nightmares of the encounter, other times I have thoughts about the screams that I heard. But I will never forget the confusion and fear that I felt inside there. Despite being free, part of me is still trapped inside of that facility. My fear is that it will always be trapped there.

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