Town Square

Post a New Topic

Coroner's office releases name of Caltrain victim

Original post made on Aug 24, 2009

Catrina Holmes, 13, of Palo Alto was officially identified as the girl who stepped in front of a Caltrain late Friday night, ending her life. The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner and Coroner's Office confirmed her identity, which already was widely known in the community.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, August 25, 2009, 5:58 PM

Comments (82)

Posted by student, a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:02 am

Everyone says this issue needs to be addressed and I completely agree Only I have yet to see any action other than posting very far from nice police officers at the railroad crossings. Basically we need some one who will actually DO something not just talk about how it needs to be done. I don't want anyone to die during my senior year at Gunn.

Posted by student, a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:08 am

This is too little too late. The PA police department said that they would patrol the tracks after the first two incidents, but they were only there for a few days before they returned to their normal routines of doing just about nothing. Again, these officers will be at the tracks, but not for a prolonged period.

Posted by not good, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:10 am

thank you media for not contributing to any glorification of this situation.

Until some real solutions are put forward to the community, this needs to be seen as a violent terrible act.

Posted by Only half joking, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:11 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by billy, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:23 am

The only real solution is to teach parents/relatives/friends to look for signs of depression in teenagers so they can make sure the kids get the help they need. The schools talk about bringing in more counselors, but the kids are only in school for a small part of the day and budget cutting means that resources are very limited. Everyone needs to get involved, not just the schools.

Maybe the PTA can get some adult volunteers to help patrol the train tracks and also work more closely with student groups.

Posted by Concerned, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:26 am

This is not a "community issue"! This is a personal issue that needs to be addressed by the family and loved ones of those afflicted. Those of you who think this can be addressed by the posting of suicide prevention hotlines and putting squad cars near the tracks are kidding yourselves.

Posted by Another Student, a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:34 am

Yeah, I'm not so sure that police hanging out in our schools will "provide a calming influence the first week and to reassure people". Generally, when I see police I sort of freak out a bit. Police don't really seem like my "friends", and police officers standing around our campus's would just make everything seem weirder, and make us students feel more alienated.

Also, when I heard that there would be police in the elementary schools, I was shocked. It's one thing to have police creeping us out at the high schools, but another to have them scaring the children. Because as much as police don't make me feel comfortable, when I was a kid I practically trembled around them. No police in the elementary schools please. Not such a great idea.

Posted by Lawrence Lovercheck, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:35 am

The police department can patrol at the crossing for a while after each incident, but must inevitably return to their regular duties. I don't think we can leave the job just to the police department. I think the parents (through the PTAs at Gunn, J.L.S. and any other schools that want to be involved) should be pro-actively involved in solving this problem. The crossing should be monitored. May I suggest that the parent groups put together a program where designated parents take rotating shifts at this crossing. The crossing should be patrolled at least 12 hours a day every day for the next several months. In addition, the school counselors should work on developing a program to identify and help kids that might be at risk.

Posted by PA resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:36 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by '09 Grad, a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:36 am

When Sonya died, many friends and peers of hers found a safe, helpful, and comforting environment in the theatre. We all knew we had a place to go to grieve together, because we always had that place when she was alive. There should be more spots/communities like that. Not only does having a place to be together comfort when someone close dies, but it's just a comfort in general. I feel like those of us connected to the theatre have always felt the warmth radiating from it... students need comfortable places to feel accepted in and to bring their worries to. It's not necessarily the job of one group of people, or of the police department, although they can help. It's about banding together as a community to alleviate the problem by talking to one another and providing reassuring environments for students to go to.

Posted by rick, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:37 am

I heard on the news were former mayor Ojakian says he is not happy with Caltrain's response to this matter. What are they supposed to do that would make him happy? You could underground the train at the intersection but that would involve ceasing property by eminent domain etc. Not sure people would go for that.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:40 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:43 am

I live near this intersection and was tempted to post my number in case someone felt like taking this as a "way out"... so they could talk. I've been through it all in life and have thought about, but never attempted to end it.

However, people point out that posting my number could trigger other sorts of calls, so it won't happen.

What about posting Suicide Hotline phone numbers prominently at both sides of the street and both sides of the track, and florescent for after dark visibility.

These kids need to know there are people willing to listen to their pain and help them see beyond it to the glorious possibilities that could be just a day away.

Posted by Susan, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:43 am

This is a complicated issue. One of teen angst and perceived world instability, dangerous train crossings, families, schools, and local government.
To highlight only one of these areas is to dismiss the others. I understand there is to be a council forming to discuss the traqgic teen train suicides. I hope and pray a strong-willed, vocal individual does NOT derail a comprehensive and broad look at ALL the issues during this special council.

Posted by Rick, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:44 am

Bob--Ojakian's son committed suicide in 2004. Him and his wife are now big into suicide prevention issues. They seem to be the "go to" people in PA for quotes and comments after suicides in PA.

Posted by anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:44 am

He and his wife have been working/testifying/organizing to reduce the incidence of teen & young adult suicide ever since they lost their son to suicide.

Posted by Old Curmudgeon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:46 am

Some of you who are so critical of the PAPD ought to take a SERIOUS look at our community's police department. Attend the Citizens' Police Academy. You might learn a little and also be entertained with "stupid crook" stories. We are fortunate to live in a community where the level of violent crime is low enough that it makes headlines when it does happen.

You'd be surprised at how few patrol officers cover our city. As someone who grew up in a city with a very high murder rate (as well as other crimes of violence and property) and a somewhat corruptible police department, I feel blessed to live in a city where the crime rate is low and the police department is able to be very discriminating in who gets hired. It's one of the things that keep me here as I watch our city become ever more congested and gentrified, as well as unwelcoming to the small neighborhood shopping centers that have made life more pleasant for many years. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] As for police officers being far from nice, well, suicide, especially of children, is far from nice to have to deal with on many levels for both the police and the train engineers who live with this much too often, not to mention the grieving families left behind.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:48 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by John, a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:48 am

No one has suggested the approach of stopping the problem at it's source. It seems like if a teen these days wants to take their life, they can be able to do that in some form or another. no matter how many police officers we devote to constantly watching the tracks, the problem still wont be solved until we focus on the issue of eradicating or at least diminishing the initial cause/reason.

Posted by West Meadow Drive resident, Palo Alto native, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:49 am

I am saddened by this and hope no more young lives are lost

Posted by active parent, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:49 am

Parents of this age group....step up to the plate and do your part...put in the time to talk to your own kids....find out about their feelings and if they notice anything in their friends behavior....volunteer around the tracks....and listen to what the kids are asking for, a place to hang out together..Suggestions are the El Camino metal building that has nothing in it...perfect. Who do you contact to get this Teen Center going? Just do SOMETHING!!!

Posted by cieboy, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:53 am

Peace, Caltrain just spent millions putting up that fencing. I agree with the previous comments to focus on the source of the problem. Parents and students just must stay awake to one another more. I agree with the student's remark about the presence of police officers in the school. If it is just upsetting students more than that is not the solution. I personally find the presence of the officers at the crossing comforting even if they are there for the short-term.

Posted by Janet, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:56 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:00 am

> One of teen angst and perceived world instability,
> dangerous train crossings, families, schools,
> and local government.

Perceived world instability? I grew up during the era of "duck-and-cover" exercises in the '50s. Now, having your home, your school and your city blown up certainly was a time of "perceived world instability". But because of decision to impose the "Pax Americana" on the world--the likelihood of ballistic missles destroying America, thought to be a strong possibilty in my childhood, makes one wonder what this poster could be thinking about?

An article in a local paper several years ago claimed that 10% of the public school students in Santa Clara County has attempted suicide, but provided no details, or source information. If anything like this is true--then maybe this problem is a lot more widespread than Palo Alto.

Posted by Another resident of the neighborhood, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:02 am

I agree with Elizabeth. Suicide hotline should be posted. Also, schools needs to have a special counselor whom students can talk to about these issues.

Posted by not good, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:02 am

I agree this is a personal moment and making it otherwise is to glorify it, isn't that what reality TV is all about?

the rest of us are VOYEURS -"Persistent observers of misery or scandal: a fascinated observer of distressing, sordid, or scandalous events"

like it or not the press makes money on advertising on the sides of these pages

these threads also attract depressed sick people that try to dispense advice.

This is NOT supposed to be a kumbaya moment, it is a health issue, and being made worse by glorification of what is a terrible violent act. Same as murder, and other terrible violent acts.

Posted by Jim, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:10 am

I haven't been by the crossing... in the past, there have been memorials, outpourings of love for the deceased.

Perhaps a despondent teen, feeling unloved, might see these memorials as their only path to receiving same love.

Perhaps they should be moved to another location, or discouraged. Not to be cruel or cold, of course.

But it seems clear that one is leading to the next, and that might be one dynamic we affect through policy or action.

Posted by Father of three, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:15 am

When Christine Dunn stated this is a community issue, I don't think she meant it is a Palo Alto police issue. She is addressing the fact that three precious children in Palo Alto have made the desperate and tragic choice to end their lives this year. That's not a problem for the police or Caltrain to solve (though I salute their efforts). This is an issue for all parents, with the school district, to confront, discuss, and OWN.

This problem is not a mystery. Other communities have confronted this type of problem. We have what we need to solve it. The first critical step is to recognize collectively that our young ones may not be as happy as they deserve to be, and we have a mutual responsibility figure out why and fix it.

Posted by not good, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:17 am


I agree, and hope they will not allow shrines at the train tracks.

It is not cold, it is the responsible thing to do - feeding melancholy and emotion to teens prone to copycat is not a good thing in this situation.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:17 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by another gunn mom, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:23 am

Don't mean to go off topic, but I have a friend whose daughter goes to Saratoga High. She mentioned that there were 3 suicides, in succession, last year at Los Gatos High.
They are publicized (as the Gunn suicides) because they took place at their homes.

This is a sad state of affairs for young people, but please know it is not unique to Gunn nor Gunn High's fault.

Posted by not good, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:35 am

Father of three,

then why are we not listening to the experts - for teens this can be a copycat issue and the way you stop it is first not making it a public soap opera.

Please, let's deal with the issues people have with the schools at school board meetings,
and stress, mental health issues with doctors, and there is no shortage of people wanting to help.

everyone's gripes get aired with this, and its' unfair to make it about solving that.

Posted by concerned parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:46 am

I think the problem with teen suicide is an even bigger problem that what has been addressed... yes, it can be helped by police presence, involved parentss, diligent teachers, attentive peers, etc. But I think the real problem, is the pressure that is on kids to succeed. Our area has become so focused on success, getting into the right schools, and getting ahead, that living has lost all meaning and enjoyment. Kids don't know how to unwind, relax, and just be kids. It is all about performance, as a means to acceptance. Kids are too busy: tutors, music, sports -- no family time because of practices. People don't care about what kids are thinking and feelings -- they are most concerned about what they DO. We need to start accepting our teens and take the pressure off of them.

Posted by I think, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:49 am

People need to start asking the kids instead of speculating from behind their keyboards.

Posted by Another Student, a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:53 am

Hmm, well, I don't know if removing the memorials will really do that much. If there is no acknowledment of everything that's happened there, then it will all be the same as it was before. And I dunno, hotline numbers just never seemed to me like something someone would take seriously. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Oh, and I think the police are fine and dandy, by the way. I commend their efforts and I think this whole message board is a great thing. Talking and suggesting ideas is a great thing, and I'm glad we can do it. I didn't mean to rag on the police or anything like that, I just think that their presence won't do much to comfort people who are contemplating suicide.

Posted by Penny, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:58 am

My heart goes out to all those affected by the teen suicides in our community. I realize that there are many causes that need to be addressed and that there are many avenues to pursue in addressing these causes. One avenue is that of a person's faith. The following event planned for next Monday, hopefully will help start the conversation. The session is not meant to be denominational, but rather to offer a broad spectrum of support to parents and other adults who interact with teens. Although the session is focused toward adults, it will be driven by the questions asked and no one will be turned away because of age.

"Supporting Our Teens in a high Pressure Environment: A Multifaith Community Response"

Faith communities from diverse traditions will offer a forum on "Supporting Our Teens: A Multifaith Community Response" on Monday, August 31, 7pm at the Cubberley Theatre, 4000 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto. A six-member panel will be moderated by Palo Alto Mayor Peter Drekmeier, and include representatives from Buddhist, Christian Science, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, and Roman Catholic traditions. The discussion will focus on what various faith teachings and practices can offer adults in the community (parents, grandparents, teachers, neighbors, friends -- anyone who cares about youth) as together we strive to better support our youth's spiritual, mental, social and physical well-being as they begin the school year. The purpose of the forum is to add the unique gifts of spiritual traditions and communities as sources of strength and guidance in service to the whole community. The event is free and open to the public.

Posted by Loura Kobza, a resident of Monroe Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 12:01 pm

I agree with "not good", let's stop these copycat suicides by not making them so public. Yes, we want to know when things like this happen so we can talk to and watch our children closer but these kids seems to be like cows following each over the cliff.

I would gladly volunteer my time to watch the tracks. I hope that after the police presence is gone that us citizens can get together and keep safety near the tracks. My daughter goes to Los Altos HIgh and doesn't have to cross the tracks on a daily basis but it is a constant reminder to me when I see the stress that her daily life takes on her. I would be terrified if she did have to cross them.

It's up to us to help the over stressed children. I pray for this little girls family. God bless you!

Posted by YSK, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 12:02 pm

I'm tired of reading the comments of people who blame the police for everything that is beyond their control. Do you really think the police do nothing in this City? Go buy a scanner and educate yourself. Ironically it is the police critic who is the first person screaming if the cops didn't get to THEM in record time when THEY need help. A no win situation.

I also find it ironic because if the police could somehow mysteriously divine the thoughts of each resident in this City and somehow KNOW when a kid or an adult was planning to harm his/her self, these same people would be screeching 'THOUGHT POLICE'.

You can't have it both ways. Do you not realize what is realistically possible and what is not? If the children's own parents or friends didn't know, how can a police officer know? That line of thought is simply ridiculous. Do you not see how many people cross those tracks on a daily basis? I've lived by the tracks for 25 years. I've seen all sorts of people crossing at all different times, and from all different points until the fence went up. Especially once school starts. Kids, runners, homeless, drunks, people walking dogs, people dragging suitcases. Should the police add to their budget to hire 12 officers to tackle each person and ask their intent crossing the tracks? Why 12? One for each crossing. One for each shift. Then one replacement for days off. Doubtful we have the budget for that. Add to that the tracks are the responsibility of the Sheriff's Dept. NOT PAPD.

I saw a young girl on the tracks last year. She had just jumped out of the way of a train. I couldn't believe my eyes. I kept coming back around to look, to see if it was for real. When I saw her still hanging around, I called out to her. I was going to stop, talk to her, maybe call the cops. She saw my intent and rolled her eyes and walked away like I was a nutcase. She walked down the bike path toward T&C. I read two days later she threw herself in front of the very next train at the Stanford Stop. Suppose she had hung around, let me talk to her. Or an Officer. If she had said 'I'm ok, just pissed at my parents or boyfriend' or 'I'm waiting for a friend', which I HAVE heard before, what can anyone do? You cannot take a person in because you THINK they may do something. They have to be acting totally deranged, or state intent. It's a crap shoot if that one chance contact will dissuade them from making the attempt again. We just can't know!

Intervention begins at home, or with friends. If it can't start on that level, and with the tendency of some for secrecy, I don't know what you think anyone else can reasonably do!

I still think the best idea is peer education. We have great film classes at Paly and Gunn. Film students should get out there and make a documentary about the impact of teen depression and suicide on themselves, their families and their communities. One for each school. Watching people they know talk about this issue may open doors that are otherwise locked tight.

Posted by Steve C, a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 12:33 pm

What is going on here? These tragedies seem to be happening at an epidemic level these days. The thing that is most troubling to me is that I have yet to hear one explanation for what motivated any of these children to take their lives.
I know that there are confidentiality and other sensitivity issues, but parents cannot take preventive measures if they don't know what to prevent. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Always expecting the schools or the police to do something is often (not always) just passing the buck.

Families need to realise that our kids must grow up with coping mechanisms to deal with all the upsets life brings them. Too many of our young kids are protected to the extent that they are not learning how to deal with disappointment in life. We need to teach them that life is not fair, that they will have triumphs in life but there will also be big dissapointments. They must learn that they may not get a part in the school play, or they may not make it onto the best sports team, or they may lose a beloved pet, or even they may not be invited to the best birthday parties.

The other aspect is to get our kids involved in things they find fun and for no other reason than fun. One of the students mentioned the theatre. For many families, getting really involved in a church where there is a good youth program which is lead by trained youth workers is a great place to hang out once or twice a week. If your church does not have one, then find one that does.

Posted by former resident, a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2009 at 12:42 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Been There, Didn't Do It But Now A Happy Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Suicide Hotline signs are posted at this particular crossing, however, having been suicidal myself at Paly, I can tell you that this won't deter people. The root of the problem is the home lives, plus the stress of rigorous academics/extracurriculars so that there is no free time for them to just hang out and relax like when I grew up. My problem was a terrible home life - verbally abusive father, controlling mother, and hearing their arguing all the time. My self-esteem was so low that I distanced myself from friends and felt there was no reason to live. It was my mom who begged me to not kill myself that stopped me - just knowing that she cared enough.

Parents need to still nurture children even though they are teenagers. Parent's don't need to interrogate children for their feelings, but they at least should talk to them sometimes. Teens don't want to share all, and parents don't need to know all. Teens just need to know their parents are there for them and care about them and their well-being and that the world won't end if they don't get into the college of choice. Some parents are so far removed from the emotions of their children that they have no idea that their children are depressed. Please, still think of your teenagers as children and remember them as the innocent babies they once were. They may look grown up but they are not adults yet.

Parents also need to keep a harmonious marriage. Children want them to get along and being around a bad relationship is detrimental to them.

Posted by YSK, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 1:06 pm

@PalyParent...that's what I said in a previous post. We have given our children so much, with all good intentions of course, that it has backfired and created a generation of kids with unrealistic expectations of the real world. My daughters grew up in Palo Alto, attended school here, went through the same pressures and somehow survived. Regardless, I was surprised one day to realize that even their skills for coping with diversity were not as strong as could be desired. In talking to their friends, I saw a similar trend. I believe that the 'I am special, I am me, and everyone will love me for being me' trend we saw in the last twenty years has not built self esteem, it has caused kids to have an expectation of the world not supported by reality. A reality kids start learning once they hit high school. Add to that instant gratification materially, and perhaps having that slow due to this economy and you are facing a lot of kids going through a sort of identity crisis. Of course, I am generalizing, but in a lot of cases, I know I'm not far off the mark. I'm not saying this is the case in any of these kid's suicides, I do not know. But as to general teen depression, I know what I listed can certainly be considered as contributory.

Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 1:25 pm

The best solution I have heard from discussions was at the last district organized meeting on depression (the night that a parent (with help from a passing motorist) stopped her son from walking in front of a train), but it was a long term approach. A counselor from JLS who was on the panel suggested we need to start taking to kids in kindergarden about how to express their feelings and how to make it OK to verbalize what they think and feel. Still in our society, boys are reared to hide sorrow, control anger, and not display disappointment. While those may be acceptable societal behaviors for adults, they do send the wrong message that it is not OK to feel those things. And adults don't often take the time (or know how) to help kids verbalize their pain. Today, teachers don't have time to try to help kids understand feelings and learn to cope with those feelings. The suggestion was to cover this as part of a health element to be added to the school curriculum in all grades--K to 12--so that we really are educating a whole child, not just their intellect. One of the goals of the PAUSD board is to make kids "resilient". If resiliency is to learn how to be healthy mentally and what to do if you are not feeling good, then this should be a priority for the schools.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 1:27 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Mark, a resident of Stanford
on Aug 24, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Other posters on other threads on this topic have pointed out that both the CDC and the WHO have very clearl guidelines on how to avoid " suicide contation"
These guidlines are very clear on how these matters should be handled by the press, schools and public discussions.

Most comments on this thread run directly COUNTER to the CDC and WHO recomendations on the matter of suicide contagion.

We ask that the Paloaltoonline Staff restrict or close this thread immediately an delete postings not in compliance with the CDC/WHO recommendations.

Enough is enough, this is a serious matter and it needs to be managed in a professional manner.

Thank you in advance of your taking firm action.

Posted by wth, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 24, 2009 at 1:54 pm

JIM -the "shrines" or memorials , as you wish to call it have been removed waaay back..shortly after Sonyas suicide, and nothing has been posted near the tracks since, I also share your same thought, it could give teens the wrong messege " maybe if i kill myself i'll get some type of "love" in return" and i was happy they took them down, no harsh feelings either. and just recently they had removed ll the bush area around that crossing. I was really surprised to see the police car and the news AGAIN..i was hoping it wasnt another suicide but was devastated to read the news.. :( my prayers go out to the families that have had to go through this tragedies.

Posted by YSK, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:10 pm

@Mark: Have you not read each thread since the first event happened? I have. Many MANY kids have written in, thanking the paper for making this thread available to them to post safely and anonymously. We are a small City, and the internet is big. Whether or not this thread is shut down will not stop others from popping up. Threads students themselves create, threads where perhaps older people with a perspective that may help cannot contribute. It is also a safe way for the kids to get points across to the adults in their lives without risking face to face confrontation.

I have seen one kid on here say that they were feeling like hurting themselves, and that reading the raw pain, ideas, thoughts and pleas of the Community helped them to realize that suicide was not the answer. These threads do not glorify the act or sensationalize, they open forum for discussion.

Posted by in the dark., a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:17 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:19 pm


I've read the CDC guidelines and I understand them. However, I think with current technology, those guidelines are seriously out-of-date.

The vulnerable population--the kids--are on Facebook and other online sites. The "contagion" of information occurs well before anything is published in the forum or the traditional media.

During the second suicide, teenagers who lived near the E. Meadow site were posting within minutes of the event--trying to figure out what had happened. Within about 20 minutes they knew and knew who it was. Not because of what they were reading here--but because of the information they were passing among themselves via messaging and texting.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

This site is where *adults* get information. It's not where the kids are getting information. I don't know what the answer is--the train track deaths are public--people who live near there, literally *hear* when there's an accident.

The CDC guidelines seem to me to work as long as you can conceal the cause of death--and it's hard to do here. And, honestly, the victim/perps seem to be very intent on making it clear what their intentions were. Unfortunately.

So, if the CDC has any up-to-date guidelines, I'd love to hear them. Seriously.

Posted by Jim, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:33 pm

This intersection (E. Meadow ) seems very odd. One by one ..., We should suggest Cal train doing something for it. Probably make a bridge or build underground trail. It can save many lives.

Posted by Gunn mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Why don't we ask the families if there was anything that their school, community, counselors, neighbors, fellow students, police, friends could have done. Any early signs that went unnoticed? No one has given the issue more careful thought than those families who have lost a child. Pose the question also to the local families with children on suicide-watch. Each situation is unique, but some commonality might emerge.
Gunn can be a harsh place when things don't go well. With funding enough for only 6 counselors and 1 psychologist for nearly 2,000 students, we as a community have to ask ourselves why we are spending so much on facilities and so little on emotional support for our teens. Where is our school board? Time to put on the brakes?

Posted by I agree, a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:48 pm

I agree with "Concerned Parent"
True it takes a great deal of work and extra curricular activities to get into college these days, but seriously, give your kids some time off to be kids. If kids have a hard time having conversations with their parents, how about a "shared" journal that a family has for kids and parents to share their "unspoken" thoughts, fears, joys and dreams. Parents could read it daily (multiple times perhaps)If they know there is someone paying attention, reading/listening to them, they may open up more. Kids just really need to know that home is where they can and should turn for help. I think it's ok to "coddle" your children/young adults once in a while it feels loving and comforing. My children are adults & college grads but they still need that from me once in a while. My prayers go out the all of the grieving families & friends. And also to the kids who don't feel good about what's going on in their lives. I beg of you, talk to someone. If they can't help you, they are likely to know of someone who can.

Posted by Father of three, a resident of Nixon School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:49 pm

I too worry that self-murderers tend to receive too much attention and glory from their acts. What they're doing has essentially the same impact on the family and community as murder. To lionize these kids is to ask other troubled kids to line up for their own 15 minutes of fame/veneration.

Specifically, here are two of the things that the CDC says shouldn't be done:

* Glorifying persons who commit suicide.

News coverage is less likely to contribute to suicide contagion when reports of community expressions of grief (e.g., public eulogies, flying flags at half-mast, and erecting permanent public memorials) are minimized. Such actions may contribute to suicide contagion by suggesting to susceptible persons that society is honoring the suicidal behavior of the deceased person, rather than mourning the person's death.

* Focusing on the suicide completer's positive characteristics.

Empathy for family and friends often leads to a focus on reporting the positive aspects of a suicide completer's life. For example, friends or teachers may be quoted as saying the deceased person "was a great kid" or "had a bright future," and they avoid mentioning the troubles and problems that the deceased person experienced. As a result, statements venerating the deceased person are often reported in the news. However, if the suicide completer's problems are not acknowledged in the presence of these laudatory statements, suicidal behavior may appear attractive to other at-risk persons -- especially those who rarely receive positive reinforcement for desirable behaviors.

Posted by not good, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:53 pm

the dark, and Steve C.

"was it peer pressure? school pressure? pressure from parents? what was it? We need to know why so we can help. Doesn't anyone else want to know why? It's a good place to start to find the answers."

the "reason" is obviously not the issue.

It's how you deal with the issues. Suicide is a violent terrible way to deal with any issue.

the idea that knowing the reason would help?

Posted by in the dark, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:56 pm

i know that my 13 year old was VERY stressed last year doing 3-4 hours of homework a night. I had to help her most nights finish up what she couldn't. I can't imagine what this year is going to be like in HS. There was NEVER as much pressure as there is now. I know because I went to the same schools in Palo Alto in the 80's. It's like night and day. We expect way too much from these kids and don't given them enough time to just be kids. Loosen up the curriculm Palo Alto and quit worrying about if we make the nation's top school list. Maybe then our rents and inflated housing prices will go down too because we won't have eveyone flocking to our town to put their kids in our HIGH PRESSURE schools. Parents need to lighten up too. I may be way off track here, but if we had the answers to why these kids resort to such action we may be able to do something besides posting our opinions.

Posted by FS, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 24, 2009 at 3:01 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by YSK, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 3:10 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Been There, Didn't Do It, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Per Jim's comment,

". . .Cal train doing something for it. Probably make a bridge or build underground trail. It can save many lives."

This wouldn't work. Kids would just walk over to Charleston Rd. tracks. Blocking the tracks is not the solution because there are miles of tracks. And if not tracks, there are freeways.

These kids need psychological help - physical barriers are unrealistic.

When I hear that "college is easy" after graduating from Gunn and Paly, I think that is a hint that we need to somehow lessen the workloads so students won't be so stressed. When I graduated in the 80s from Paly, which had its great reputation back then too, school was not as difficult. These days, they need to know books inside and out, analyze them over and over, speak in conversations in world language by the end of two years, etc., basically doing college-level work when they don't have the maturity of adults.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 3:18 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Children need to learn how to deal with disappointment in their lives. They need to realise that life will not live up to their expectations and they have to expect things to go against them every now and then. Every child will be disappointed at some time and do well at others. School is only one part of their lives but there are many other ways in which their lives will suffer things they consider not fair. Yes, knowing the cause the kids give is a good idea. But really, the cause will always be the same. They have been hurt by something in their lives which they did not expect. It could be a row with a parent or a friend. It could be a school issue, a social issue, or something else, but it is something that means a lot to the individual. It may be something that has been brewing over time, or it could be something that has just happened and this means that the solution may have been on the person's mind for a while, or may have suddenly seemed like a good idea. The trend of suicide is now in the arena as far as our kids are concerned. Hiding details and "protecting" them is not going to stop them from considering suicide as an option. What will help them is giving them the tools, the opportunity and the desire for other options to deal with their disappointments.

Posted by DZ, a resident of Barron Park School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Is the "millions" spent by Caltrain enough to stop its trains killing our kids? No! Then why you think they have done enough? BTW, how much a young life worth? A million each or half million each!!! Caltrain is so arrogant and cold blooded! I am totally outraged by their statement.
There are many things they can do and should do. Things like installing moving fence to totally seal the access of the intersection when train crosses. Installing wireless cameras to allow drivers to have a better visual of the intersections before it is too late...
I wish the cops will be there 24/7 and all year around. I am thankful for their effort and compassion, which I don't see any from Caltrain. But cops is not the solution. Their present only shows the helpless of our community. The elected officials have to get involved and come out better ideas.
Stop blaming our kids, they are all great new stars of our future. Maybe we should teach them more about their responsibility to their families, to their friends, to their schools and to this country. Let them know how much they are being loved and how much expectation we are looking forward from them. This expectation is not pressure, it is extension of our human spirit, it is something, once they have, they will enjoy all their life.

Posted by dave, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 24, 2009 at 3:45 pm

There are very thoughtful comments made here. I like what many have said, but in particular I reread the postings of YSK and Been There as well as Old Curmudgeon.

My own contribution is that posting police at crossings is not going to solve the problem of teen suicide. The problem(s) begin with family life and the solutions must begin there.

The teens in school know of the counselors and that they are available. Ask them why some do not seek help from the schools.

Posted by Ann, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Slow the trains down as they go through Palo Alto. They go through far too fast. In addition to the recent suicides, there have been accidents at these crossings. If I recall, a woman was killed at the East Meadow crossing in just the past year or two when she followed another car up and over the track and was struck when the gates came down and she had no way to get off the track. Slow the trains down so they can safely stop for cars and people on the track. I've lived in other metro areas and don't recall the trains travelling at such high speeds through such densely populated areas.

Posted by another gunn mom, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 24, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Gee, I have a kid who will be a senior this year at Gunn. My child felt very stressed out/anxious and somewhat down last May/June: SAT2 tests, AP tests and Finals. On top of this there were the two suicides. As soon as school ended in June, my child felt much better.

Unfortunately, if a child wants to go to a competitive schools like Cal, UCLA or some other private college the national/international competition is intense.

My child told me that they don't want to deal with this latest suicide. Too much work already with utterly ridiculous college applications and a myriad of the most ridiculous essays that college applications require.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by relentlesscactus, a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2009 at 4:11 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2009 at 4:17 pm

1/ I support following the CDC and WHO evidence based recommendations.

2/ School kids read these posts which is not good.

3/ re social network sites, when a contagious suicide outbreak broke out in a Wales UK (20+ young people killed themselves in a 2 year period) the social network sites involved started policing and blocking access and links and it worked.

4/The events here are being handled very poorly according to the CDC/WHO recommendations for example there are TV trucks at the crossing this afternoon-- at this there is no memorial site there this time.

5/This is a very serious matter, many kids lives are at risk if we do not handle this correctly and learn from the mistakes made in May and June.
7/ Stanford and the PAMF have competent/qualified/experienced psychiatrist who have already helped many Gunn students since June, we should listen to their advice as well as that of the CDC/WHO

The best thing Paloaltoonline can do is to report the minimal facts with not pictures or interviews, no coverage of any memorials and to shut these threads DOWN NOW. It is the professional thing to do for the sake of the kids.

If the editors have any doubts about this then they should immediately contact the CDC and the WHO and heed their advice.

Posted by Lucy, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 5:07 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Moffett Resident, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 24, 2009 at 5:10 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Patrolling E. Meadow may not solve the issue of teen suicide as a whole, but it would curtail the appeal of that particular spot--and, yes, that would help. It would be less of a draw to someone who's suicidally depressed. The place has obviously taken on a hideous symbolism of its own.

Obstacles and inaccessibility may not treat the root of the problem--and that should be addressed--but they do prevent incidents.

We're not Britain and some of what's being suggested here gets close to free-speech violations--not the editing here, but shutting down networking sites.

Posted by CrazyMan, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 24, 2009 at 5:56 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

Posted by Moffett Resident, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 24, 2009 at 6:05 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by Cypressman, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 24, 2009 at 6:09 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by A Palo Alto parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2009 at 6:39 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
From the kid's POV, the parents just don't understand the pressure they're under, and out of touch with their reality.

Posted by Once again - wake up!, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 7:24 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Paly student, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 9:55 pm

As a student who has personally experienced depression myself, I can promise you that posting police at the tracks for a short while isn't going to stop these horrible incidents. I mean the truth is officers can't be at all parts of the tracks at all times...and the kids are going to go wherever the police aren't.
I think that the idea posted earlier by Ann is a great idea; slow the trains down.

Also, you know what I personally find ridiculous? I was just at the homepage of this website and under stories of train suicide, there was a headline for the new bullet trains that are to be put in. Are you serious? Faster trains are the LAST thing we need. I"m sorry to the people that those trains would be more convenient for...but we have to take precautions. What if we took the immense amounts of money that are going into the bullet trains and put them into security cameras for the tracks? Just a thought

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:02 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:34 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The school district reflects the values of the community, so that's why the taxpaying community, if it wants changes, need to start at home AND effect changes in the school system. But then, all that striving to achieve won't get your kids into top notch schools so often, or at least, that is what the community fears.

Mental health should come first, school 2nd. Mental health begins at home as does changing the school system - if that's really what's needed. Quit blaming the teachers.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:35 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Elizabeth made an interesting point. What about an emergency phone at the railroad crossings that if picked up, went straight to a suicide crisis hotline? Is my thinking way off the mark? I don't know what the cost would be, but hey - the taxpayers will pay for it one way or another, so maybe it's worth a shot?

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:51 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by relentlesscactus, a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2009 at 10:59 am

relentlesscactus is a registered user.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Fences on Caltrain, signs, cops by Meadow crossing, these can't solve the problem; these are hollow political gestures by bureaucrats who are even more powerless than the parents. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I offer no answers, because there are not any new ones. Suicide hotlines can help IF an individual wants to live. Volunteers at Meadow crossing may result in a situation of an adult physically trying to restrain a stronger teenager. I am glad to see a slow awakening so that some in these discussions finally understand that taking the glory out of the equation may help stop the draw to Meadow crossing at least. Very true we cannot stop the instant teen communication of Facebook, Twitter, cell phones. However, we must keep the crossing free of memorial clutter, keep the names of the suicidees out of the mass media, end the school assemblies and outpouring of public compassion of those who neither knew nor understood any of the individuals nor what their particular motivation was.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by hcc2009, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 26, 2009 at 12:49 pm

hcc2009 is a registered user.

When my daughter was younger (around 14 years old), the topic of suicide came up and I tried to talk to her about it. She thought I was "weird" but I talked about it anyway.  I shared with her my own love of life, and how I would never ever contemplate the act, no matter how horrible life was. I told her that just feeling the sun on one's face, or tasting a delicious bowl of ice cream, is reason enough to keep living.
Now that suicides are actually *happening* in Palo Alto, parents have no excuse not to talk to their children about this. Even if the child tries to avoid it and say you are weird, you can bet it is on their mind and that they are listening. So, parents ... talk! In addition to affirming your own love of life, tell your children how horrible it would be for YOU if something were to happen to them. Tell them you're not sure you could survive without them. And don't just tell them once, tell them every chance you get. Tell them until they are sick of hearing it and beg you to stop.
Hint: A good place to talk about cringey topics is in the car while driving somewhere. This way the child doesn't have to look at you as you talk, but can still hear you. You might have to ask him/her to remove the earbuds for a moment. That's ok; it's your right as a parent to ask that.
In our community there is a tendency to be both neglectful of, and intimidated by, our kids. Yes, we all have those start-ups and those big community projects to keep running. We all have money worries and lots to do on the computer. And our children more sophisticated than many of us were at the same ages, and so good at putting us down, putting us off, making us feel out-dated.
Even so, they *do* listen to us. As the parent of an 18-year-old I can guarantee she heard much more from me over the years than she ever let on at the time. She's finally starting to show some signs of being my daughter! Amazing! And wonderful.
So, parents, TALK!

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

To post your comment, please click here to login

Remember me?
Forgot Password?
or register. This topic is only for those who have signed up to participate by providing their email address and establishing a screen name.

Touring the Southern California “Ivies:” Pomona and Cal Tech
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 5 comments | 2,349 views

Chai Brisket
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 1,665 views

Sometimes "I'm Sorry" Doesn't Cut It
By Cheryl Bac | 4 comments | 891 views

Couples: Parallel Play or Interactive Play?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 707 views

SJSU Center for Steinbeck Studies to Honor Author Khaled Hosseini on Weds Sept 10
By Nick Taylor | 0 comments | 544 views