A Full Disclosure
My campaign for Gunn’s District School Board Representative has been focused on building a direct connection between our local government and the student body. If elected, I hope to represent my constituents without personal bias. However, as all humans, I am imperfect. That is why it’s necessary that I forfeit my privacy share this story with you: public service is about putting the needs of the many over the needs of the few. These are not my proudest moments, but they have affected me in ways that will define how I can serve you as your representative. Despite its tortuous nature, I hold this experience as a badge of honor and accept it as a part in defining who I am. It’s your turn to judge.
Three sharp knocks announced their arrival. It was the night of December 16, last year, and my grandmother was downstairs cleaning the kitchen. I knew who they were before she opened the door: the night had been full of calls and texts, and my hopes of evading the dispatch were dashed.
“Ankit, the police are here for you.”
I crept out of my room, trying to hold back tears. My grandma later told me I was visibly shaking.
“What happened? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Her face was a mixture of fear, confusion, but mostly shock. I took the stairs one-by-one, coming to the living room of our apartment. Three policemen stood there, one blocking the exit and one with a clipboard and paperwork. The last one turned to face me.
“Hi Ankit. My name is Officer Miceli. We’re here to help.”
The man at the door said “Subject in contact. Cancel train watch” into his radio. I sat on my living room couch and curled up. Officer Miceli asked my name and DOB.
“Do you know why why we’re here tonight?”
“My friend called in.”
“Yes. She really cares about you, you know that? It takes a lot of courage to call the police. She must really care for you.”
“What did you tell her that made her so scared?”
I asked if my grandma could leave the room. After a moment’s hesitation, he said “sure” and one of his partners escorted her upstairs.
“I said I wanted to kill myself.”
“Did you mean it?”
“I don’t know.”
He asked if would be okay if I went with him to see someone who could help. I knew my response did not matter. I checked into the hospital at 11:47 PM.
“Do you know what a 5150 hold is?”
I was taken to the Crisis Stabilization Unit for minors at EMQ in Campbell. It’s about a half-an-hour’s drive from Palo Alto (or more for my grandmother who was unfamiliar with driving in the United States). If you aren’t as lucky, you are taken to Stanford Hospital’s Psychiatric ER, where you are kept in a more limited facility. Above all, the purpose of these facilities is to prevent you from self harm. (Upon entry, I was required to forfeit my belt, shoes, and anything else that could be used as a weapon.)
A 5150 hold is an involuntary, 72-hour psychiatric hold where an officer or official determined that the subject is either a danger to herself, a danger to others, or incapable of meeting her basic needs for survival without assistance. The vast majority of cases, including mine, are admitted under the first criterion.
Our district has some of the process down, but there is work to be done. I had to go through a reentry meeting and meet the school psychologist, and my teachers were flexible with rescheduling my missed finals. But it felt to me like a large part of the requisite support was missing. Next to nothing helped me in the weeks and days prior, and my friend was put in the horrible position of feeling like she betrayed my trust. I know first-hand how difficult it can be to make a call to the police, and I want there to be better systems around assisting reporter as well as the person in crisis. Most of all, I want to move our policy from reactive to preventative. Our current preventative measures are dismal: ACS is underfunded, over-scheduled, and supplied with a rotating staff; the counsellor-student relationship is almost nonexistent; and the teachers to whom students look to for support have to rely on their personal experience to respond. As School Board Representative, bringing district attention to how our efforts to improve mental wellness on our campus would be one of my top priorities. One of my key goals is to help ensure that nobody at our school has to feel that alone again. This goes along with my promise to focus on the student opinion; while I feel strongly about this cause, I know that the voice of two-thousand outweighs mine, and at every step I will look to you for guidance. Together, we’re going to give Gunn and Palo Alto the support it needs.