The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Leah Randhawa

January 25, 2023

Leah Randhawa, a sophomore at Tide Academy in Menlo Park, California, is another student who spent her days in a mental hospital. She has suffered from suicidal thoughts and an eating disorder. Like other high school students, Randhawa spends most of her time with friends. She’s on Tide’s rowing team and is passionate about getting high academic marks to attend the University of California, Berkeley, to pursue a career in computer science.

Her treatment experience first began when she started visiting her pediatrician due to her suffering from an eating disorder. As a wellness checkup, Randhawa filled out a form that expressed her feelings in which she remarked about having suicidal thoughts. This continued for four years of visits until Randhawa noticed the flashes of an ambulance outside her home one night out of the blue. First responders were called for a possible mental health crisis, and Randhawa’s home was deemed an environment too harmful for her. She was taken to the emergency room that night.

“They took the only words ‘I want to kill myself’ as a way to send people to the ER, but when you kind of word it in a different way, like ‘oh, I’ve just not been feeling well,’ you’re ignored,” Randhawa said.

For the 26 hours, she was in the emergency room on a waiting list for transfer to a psychological ward, she was contained and monitored by a security guard within what she described as a “glass room.”

“Your room is completely empty and the only thing you have is a cell phone and your parent for the whole 26 hours,” Randhawa said.

After the ordeal, she was transferred to a psychological ward for three days, during which her psychiatrist gave her low doses of Prozac. According to Mind, a non-profit organization raising awareness of mental illness, Prozac is a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant that is also known as fluoxetine. It works by blocking nerve cells in the brain to extend the effect of serotonin.

She also remarked that seeing figures walking across her room gives her immense anxiety at the thought that one of these “shadows” might attack her. These hallucinations would stay with her even after she visits the psych ward.

“I was insanely paranoid all the time. I’d never leave my room when people were in the house because I’d think that they were outside my room when I’m sleeping. I would never move from a specific position because I feel like they noticed me, and I’d get really freaked out,” Randhawa said.

Now having medication and a medical professional guiding her, her psychiatrist recommended her an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) with her parents, a form of group therapy. Randhawa mentions that she was incredibly uncomfortable with the process, as she never opened up to her parents at the level the doctors were asking. This continued at 11 hours a week for two months.

“You literally just get couples therapy with your parents, and it’s horribly awkward because I don’t talk to my parents,” Randhawa said.

Randhawa stresses the disconnection between teenagers who have mental illnesses and the adults trying to help them. With her sudden admission into the mental health system, she feels the ordeal worsened her feelings of depression and anxiety. 

“I’m doing perfectly fine. A lot of things with therapy is that they try to provoke past memories, and those are the things you don’t want to remember because you’re trying to move on,” Randhawa said.

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