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2007 Gunn High School grad Lawrence Park ends his life

Original post made on Feb 26, 2010

Lawrence Park, 20, a 2007 graduate of Gunn High School, is being mourned by family, friends and classmates at University of California, Berkeley, where he was discovered by a roommate Feb. 15, an apparent suicide by hanging, according to a report in the Daily Californian.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 26, 2010, 2:19 PM

Comments (40)

Posted by Cursed, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 26, 2010 at 3:17 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Zealotus, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 26, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Going to the best colleges does not guarantee happiness! [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Palo Alto
on Feb 26, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.

My soon to be ex-wife is a psychiatrist, and she spent some time at the Cowell Health Center on Stanford campus dealing with students experiencing depression.

Here is what learned from what she could tell me, without violating confidentiality, about this problem:

1. Brains mature later than does the rest of the body. Either sex could be at their physical size in their mid-teens, the brain is on a different track and does not level out until the mid-20's.

2. For some people at that age of life, the brain maturation includes a period of depression. It can be treated medically, and it ends usually after the brain is at "cruising altitude," but for some people at that age, it is a helpful thing.

3. People who in an environment of high achievement and have a clinical depressive state, don't recognize what they are experiencing. They feel that maybe they are in over their heads, when that is not the case in terms of their studies. True at Gunn, PALY, and Stanford.

3. Student peers are not sensitized to recognizing symptoms or how to get the at risk student into a safe place. When an event occurs, the student peers commonly are shocked, they had no idea. The Ojakians are doing a great job of bringing out this issue, thanks Mary and Vic.

4. The City of Palo Alto and the PAUSD are actively working with the student community and other stakeholders to get a better idea of what it takes to end this series of tragedies. A series of meetings are taking place, including one Saturday February 27, at the Mitchell Park Community Center, starts at 2pm, scheduled to end at 5pm.

We clearly have a Community issue here. Let's do our best to address it.

Paul Losch
City of Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 26, 2010 at 4:41 pm

"We clearly have a Community issue here. Let's do our best to address it."

The self-esteem movement has done everything it can possibly do to prevent the experience of failure among our students. This starts very early (preschool) and extends through k-12. It is hardly surprising that a mere rough patch causes some kids to think of themselves as hopelessly doomed.

To put it mildly, we have succeeded in producing a group of kids that have no backbone. They have not had to deal with failure, and they are completely coddled. Why are we, suddenly, shocked that some kids are doing themselves in?

The human brain is plastic, both positively and negatively. We need to postively grow those brains, in order to put up with perceived failures. We can do this by calling failure, failure (including the dreaded red pencil on exams).

Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 26, 2010 at 5:09 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by david, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 26, 2010 at 6:38 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 26, 2010 at 6:45 pm

The WHO and CDC have very clear, evidence based, advice on how local media should report suicides to prevent contagion.

PA weekly consistently violates this WHO and CDC advice


Posted by heartbroken, a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 26, 2010 at 7:08 pm

I am so sorry to hear of what this family and this promising young man have suffered.

Much has been made of the "suicide cluster" issue in recent months, and that certainly must be considered. However, if there is truly an effect in students after they leave Gunn when they presumably do not have that influence, it's important to consider other factors as well, such as social (what kinds of social environments contribute to causing and acting on suicidal thoughts and what kinds of social environments help prevent, and how can we encourage those that prevent) and physical/environmental (what kinds of external environmental factors such as diet, even infection, can increase mood disorders or their severity).

The above poster makes a point: are we teaching kids how to make mistakes and the VALUE of making mistakes -- and even owning one's mistakes? That's one real problem I see even among our very stellar youth. I hear a lot of talk about the value of this in our district, even among teachers, but I don't see any actual incorporation of that ethic into our curriculum.

Something as simple as the school lunch program bears examination. I have a peer-reviewed scientific paper buried on my desk somewhere that discusses how gluten intolerance is more common than gluten allergy, and that those with intolerance have a higher rate of mood disorders. (Those with intolerance benefit from gluten avoidance as much as those with gluten allergy.) Modern wheat is certainly very different than wheat of even 100 years ago -- and it's the major component of virtually every school lunch, with almost no exceptions.

Now, maybe this has something to do with the problem, maybe not. But it wouldn't be that difficult to simply offer gluten-free lunches for a semester and gage if there is any change. (The barriers to making such a change are more mental than logistical. After all, much of the rest of the world already lives on a rice-based diet quite nicely.) It's a fairly low risk, low investment intervention for a potentially big gain. And if it doesn't prove to have any effect, the only harm has been to broaden student lunch offerings for a few months. If it does have an effect, it would change everything for this district from something as simple as just changing the school lunch menu. Even if so, there may be other parts of the picture.

The size of the student body could have an effect, as Gunn and Paly have only recently become such packed schools. Perhaps we can't experiment so easily with such things as making smaller schools, but the issue at least bears careful examination, which is not happening.

The transience of our local community, sorry to say it's true all over Silicon Valley -- how can we foster community in our town, not just in the schools, in a way that creates a safety net for our youth?

I hear lots of theories and concrete suggestions floating around, but are we implementing them to try to problem solve this?

Most of the things we do, such as above, would benefit the students anyway and are worth trying regardless of whether they completely solve the problem. IF we're willing to monitor the local tracks, we should be willing to try such things. And anyway, when people do suffer depression, whether you find the answer or not, tipping the balance just enough so that they don't go overboard may be as important as finding the underlying cause (which may be impossible).

Posted by Karen, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 26, 2010 at 7:44 pm

The so-called 'Self-Esteem Movement' does not produce self-esteem in children. Do you really think anything the public schools implement is effective?
The DARE program, aimed at elementary age children, is preaching to the choir. The human brain changes and its in high school that kids need accurate information. The DARE program is full of inaccuracies and by high school kids know when they're being b-s'ed.
Do you really think that public schools have been successful in creating a feeling of self-esteem in children? You are in La-La-Land. An abundance of self-esteem is not the problem.
The problem is children growing up in a narcissistic, materialistic country where they feel their only worth is in their success as judged by these empty values.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 26, 2010 at 8:52 pm

We can't blame the schools and teachers for all of these recent tragic events. Schools only have children for 40 hours a week (more or less). The other 128 hours during the week are spent elsewhere. This doesn't count the other 183 days that children do NOT attend school.

Let me encourage the parents of children in Palo Alto to make an extra effort. Parents should make every effort to know their children...detect any warning signs...and let those children know that you are there for them. Now, I am sure that many of the parents of these kids did their best to do this. However, some of these signs were missed by -- and probably hidden from -- the parents.

I wish that the schools could make an extra effort to let the children know that life is a great mystery...and definitely worth living (if only to find out how it will turn out). There is nothing in life worth reacting violently...or turning that violence upon one's self.

I am relatively my 20s...and from an extremely poor background. Our large family endured quite a bit of obstacles as we performed migrant farm work. However, our parents instilled in us a measure of faith...and an appreciation for the simple things in life. My siblings looked forward to the end of our labors.

I hope that the guys and girls of Gunn High School (and those from other schools in Palo Alto) can realize that life is a mystery...and it is definitely worth hanging on until the end...just to find out what can happen. Education in only one aspect of life. There are so many other wonderful mysteries! The will be drama...romance...comedy...tragedy...mystery...adventure. There will be spouse...children...even grandchildren...traveling...and too much more to list!

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of this young man.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 26, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Nayeli makes a good point about life being a "mystery." We should remember to live in the moment and quit thinking about the future so much or we cannot enjoy the present.

Posted by paradise lost?, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 26, 2010 at 10:08 pm

1999- come to work for our start up, get a BMW, stock options, no college degree required. High school diploma might be required. We'll all be millionaires, so who cares about "degrees"

2005-get a college degree, preferably some grad school work, before applying for a prestige position at our company

2009-After AIG and Lehman Bros. , your business degree isn't enough. What's your work experience? Bioscience, sure, take a number along with the rest of the recent grads. But, we've outsourced so much to Asia that we really don't need to pay as much as you think you're worth.
2010-We're not hiring. We've outsourced that position overseas. It costs so much less. You've got a great pedigree from Gunn/Paly, Berkeley/Harvard/Stanford, ever think of going into government or social work?

Posted by Helpful Realist, a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2010 at 11:32 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by alumni of, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 26, 2010 at 11:35 pm

One of Lawrence's friends recently posted an album of photographs on Facebook from Lawrence's commemoration service. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Also, Lawrence's friends have all changed their Facebook profile pictures to photographs of them with Lawrence. In addition, many have mentioned Lawrence in their Facebook status updates, the same place where many profane, silly, or mundane thoughts are shared on a daily basis by college students.

In my own opinion...
...though perhaps motivated by better sentiments and principles, these online actions are an invasion of privacy and a breach of etiquette. These trivializing postings on Facebook and a dose of profound disrespect and trivialization

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Helpful Realist, a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Alumni --

I think I know what you mean. There is absolutely nothing in the world more insulting than reading an article about someone's death in which it is mentioned that someone (usually a 'celebrity') 'tweeted' their condolences. Tweeted their RIP condolences. If I ever were thinking of killing myself, that alone would stop me.

Posted by alumni, a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 26, 2010 at 11:55 pm

I seriously disagree with your opinion and it almost sickens me. If you went to the commemoration of lawrence park you would've heard how grateful his parents were for the tremendous amount of online support through facebook from his friends.

Lawrence Park's brother (Phil Park) created the facebook event page to notify gunn alumni of the commemoration held last week. His brother/family asked that people remember Lawrence by changing their profile pics to image of Lawrence with his friends. We did so to show our sympathy and support for his parents and brother. Is this so disrespectful if the family requested such an action and was grateful for it?

The Gunn alumni from the class of 2007 are spread in over 20 different states and in several countries overseas. Not everyone has to option to attend the commemoration or meet with other alumni in person. Facebook provides a vital link for the other members of my graudating class to share memories of Lawrence and provide support for one another.

To downplay the request of the Park family as "trivial" and "impersonal" sickens me. Please let the family decide how to honor their son and have the community members/alumni connect with one another.

Posted by 3rd Gen Chinese, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2010 at 12:13 am

@Helpful Realist,

Nice thought, but my culture holds education in too high a regard to be convinced otherwise. I know of many Asian students with immigrant parents who push them to engage in Chinese school, music, dance, etc., and do these children seem happy? No. Do the parents care? No. They do whatever it takes to get the children an accomplished resume. I feel sorry for a lot of these Asian children who have parents who put so much pressure on their children.

There are immigrant Asian parents who do understand/live American culture and a balanced lifestyle, however, so please do not stereotype all immigrant Asian parents to have the values I mentioned above. I have met many who state they chose to live in Palo Alto because it is more balanced than Fremont or Cupertino and they prefer the diversity here. Just because we are Asian, doesn't mean we want to be amongst all Asians.

And remember that first generation Asians and second, third, and fourth generation Asians have different values. By the time they are third generation and beyond, they are assimilated into American lifestyles.

Also remember that there is an Asian hierarchy and they all have their different stereotypes.

Posted by alumni of, a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 27, 2010 at 12:19 am

Facebook may seem "impersonal" but for some of these alumni it was the only personal means to share thoughts and sympathy on this tragic event.

As the poster mentioned above, the Class of 2007 is spread all over the country. Many probably wanted to attend the funeral but could not make arrangements to do so.

Except the case with Lawrence, all the previous suicides occurred at the E. Meadow crossing in Palo Alto. Most of the friends and family of the suicide victims could easily connect with each other and offer support/condolences because many of them were at the same geographic area (Gunn/Palo Alto). This is very different for the friends of Lawrence Park. They're distributed all over the country and it's difficult for them to share their personal feelings and thoughts with each other except through an online medium.

Regarding the photos of "expressionless people dressed in black milling about and standing around". These photos were taken as everyone was listening to the Park family talk about their son. It was very sad to hear and watch the father talk about his son while holding a framed picture of Lawrence. Everyone seemed somber and respectful from those photos so I'm not so sure "expressionless" is the term to use.

Posted by get your facts straight, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2010 at 12:31 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by A True Realist, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 27, 2010 at 12:37 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Reasons for suicide cannot be reduced down one factor such as race. Multiple factors/influences drive an individual to commit suicide. It's not just race or academics or concern for grades because we've seen a wide spectrum of gunn students from various backgrounds and ethnicities. It's clearly not ethnicity since given the pictures. And it's clearly not grades because some of these students achieved good grades to be able to attend or get accepted to 4-year universities. Suicide is a very complex matter and multiple issues factor into its causation.

Posted by 3rd Gen Chinese, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2010 at 12:38 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Concerned parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 27, 2010 at 1:10 am

Talk of this being an Asian issue is not accurate, fair, or constructive. I am not Asian. But I welcome Asians to Palo Alto and appreciate their involvement in our schools and community, while also recognizing that this notion of "Asian" is a succinct category that encompasses a great variety of cultures. I also welcome the kind of candor that the Dickens family generously shared with us to help us understand suicide as a mental health issue. Tragically, we have an element of contagion... but blaming racial groups is spiteful.

Posted by Another PA parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2010 at 9:36 am

I find all the racial comments quite disturbing. I've lived in Palo Alto for over 60 years now. Palo Alto is a great city because of diversity and culture acceptance. We have German schools, Chinese schools, Jewish schools, and Farsi schools. These schools are thriving because Palo Alto parents of ALL races are highly educated and recognize the importance of their roots. Let's don't use the Asian card as a convenient execuse for what's happening. It isn't fair to our students!

Posted by 3rd Gen Chinese, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2010 at 9:36 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 27, 2010 at 11:15 am

My deep condolences to the Park family. We've known them since they moved into our neighborhood in Palo Alto. They are one the most humble and helpful folks in our community.

Posted by Another parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I'm heartsick over this series of events. My condolences to friends and family, teachers and classmates of this young man. As a Gunn parent, I've been astonished at the wonderful atmosphere among faculty and students, coaches and administration at the school and heartened by the caring and contributions of many parents. Having said that, I've been appalled at the attitude of a subset of parents who force their children to work work work, compete compete compete. At parent meetings, this subset will rant on and on about their methods of squeezing the very best performance out of their children, regardless of who the children are, what they want, what their gifts and limitations may be. It's an infection that spreads despair, alienation, and ruthlessness among the community, and that teachers are not equipped to counteract. This subset includes people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. I have to work very hard to counter this in my own children, insisting they only take on a significant challenge if they wish to and that their own hopes and dreams and talents are the main drivers in their academic and other decisions. This unfortunate sort of 'parenting' is tragic, but it alone is not responsible for the suicides. The brain as it develops is subject to periods of disorientation, distorted thinking, impulsive behavior, and depression. Young people need to be screened on a regular basis by professionals who are trained to discern when someone is in trouble. Treatment is available, though tragically not always successful. If the subset of parents shifted some of their emphasis toward the emotional well being of their children, we'd all be better off, but the necessity for suicide prevention falls upon all of our shoulders.

Posted by No comments, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Please disable comments for this article. Allowing discussion ad nauseam will make the situation worse, not better.

Posted by Helpful Realist, a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 27, 2010 at 8:47 pm

It is sad to me that true dialogue is not allowed. Suicide is a tragedy. Discussion should be encouraged. Stifling discussion is a very sad shame. I am able and willing to provide so much help to the suffering students out there but the dialogue is not allowed.

I wish the young people luck in resolving their anguish. It will not come without serious discussion about the real issues.

Posted by against censorship, a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 28, 2010 at 1:24 am

I find all of this disturbing:

The censorship is excessive and goes beyond issues of decorum. You are censoring ideas and expression.

Yes, I know it's "private property" but I'm tired of NIMBY free speech.

"Please disable comments for this article. Allowing discussion ad nauseam will make the situation worse, not better."

This is a prescription for a Potemkin Village. No thanks.

Posted by Gunn alum, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 28, 2010 at 8:00 am

As a class of 2007 member who knew Lawrence very well, I can say that it was so uplifting to see everyone change their profile pictures on facebook to those with Lawrence in them. I appreciated it so much, and I know many of my fellow 07 alums did, as well.

Posted by not again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2010 at 8:23 am

"The WHO and CDC have very clear, evidence based, advice on how local media should report suicides to prevent contagion.

PA weekly consistently violates this WHO and CDC advice

The paper has been asked this question by professionals and they still continue to go against their advice of (who know a lot more about suicides than most of the commenter in these blogs). One would hope that the Palo Alto Weekly would try to support the situation rather than help to continue the contagion but it seems that they are more concerned with reminding everyone about "the school" that each person attended, attends or might have attended. Please Weekly folks , wake up and listen to the professionals!

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2010 at 8:58 am

Deaths are always news, regardless of whether they are suicide or not. Just in the past few days, an actor I hadn't heard of and Marie Osmond's 18 year old son both committed suicide. I think it is the duty of a local newspaper to report local deaths.

People will talk about these deaths regardless of whether they are over the garden fence or in a public forum like this. It is better in my opinion to have the discussion here where it can be moderated against venom. Saying that, the censorship here is a little too heavy handed. Certain segments of our population do have the reputation for being much more pushy academically than others and not being able to question it as a possible factor appears to take censorship a little too far.

Posted by Helpful Realist, a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2010 at 8:59 am

"Please Weekly folks , wake up and listen to the professionals!"

You people are very scary. You are advocating government policies from Washington DC and the United Nations (that is what the CDC and WHO are) to determine what should be printed in the Palo Alto newspapers. Your scary logic seems to propose that even reporting these suicides should be a crime.

You do not want me to speak about this subject. You pretend that this will help the situation. You are wrong on every level. What if someone at the United Nations stated that there should never be school psychologists allowed to talk to students about suicide because this would only cause more problems?

No, we do not need advice from the World Health Organization. We need input and dialogue from all well meaning people of this community. All parents should admit (to themselves at least) that nobody is a perfect parent, no culturally accepted ways are perfect, and it is very possible to put too much pressure on children.

Our society is a complex one and none of us can figure out things for ourselves. What may have worked in one culture may not work here. The stress to be perfect in everything will break most people. Even if one is perfect in academics and gets into the perfect school, what about romance? How do you handle failure? I find it tragic that there were two suicides at UC Berkeley during the Valentine's Day weekend. Where is the understanding that we will all fail and that it is OK?

I am rambling and I may continue to ramble. Through my ramblings and other well-meaning ramblings there will be knowledge and wisdom passed down to those who are willing to read it. The thought of suppressing these posts because some 'professional' from the United Nations dictates it is against everything that we should stand for.

Posted by Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Feb 28, 2010 at 9:38 am

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

The Weekly is well aware of the various guidelines for the reporting of suicides and is in regular consultation with local mental health professionals. Comments that violate these guidelines are removed or edited. These guidelines should not be confused, however, with the value of providing the community with an opportunity to express their grief and engage in an open discussion on the complex factors that go into mental illness and, ultimately, a person's decision to take his or her own life. It is also important to realize that many of the guidelines were developed before teens (and adults) had online social networking sites such as Facebook available. They focus on how news reporting should be handled. We don't believe, nor do most mental heath professionals, that preventing people from discussing these tragic suicides is a strategy for a healthier community.

Posted by Andrew Nelson, a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 28, 2010 at 11:33 am

I live in New Jersey right now, but I graduated from Gunn the class of 2000. My mother taught Chinese at UC Berkeley, and I met a couple of those students. They were very nice people. It is very saddening to hear something like that happening. It is really tragic, actually.

I am 27 now. And I am developing the senses of what it means to be human right now. I think the 20's is an important stage in anyone's life, because it is the period in which people figure out who they are, and where they stand in this society. Unfortunately, Lawrence did not find a way in which he could find an answer, a peaceful resolution to the problems he was facing. That is quite unfortunate. And the only way that he could come to terms with his situation was by a hanging.

Speaking of something else, I had a ski accident, a severe brain trauma, in 1997 in Lake Tahoe, and I had to redevelop my brain in going back to PASC (palo alto swim club), CYS (california youth symphony), and of course my academics. The way in which the brain works is really fascinating. There are so many insides and outs that go on with the brain. In 1998, I went to a brain scanning clinic in Fairfield, CA, and they discovered depression in my brain, and the clinic prescribed anti-depression pills as a result.

I will be honest with everyone, and say that I considered committing suicide myself before I graduated. That was mainly because I thought
I could not return to my pre-injury state of who I was. I was very talented before the accident. And I had to find new ways to "re-invent" myself after the accident.

Once again, it is very tragic to hear of this incident. My heart goes out to their family, in this difficult time.


Posted by A Close Friend of Lawrence, a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 28, 2010 at 2:00 pm

To Bill -

When I first read the article in the Daily Californian, I was angered. But then a friend told me that a death is news and news is meant to be reported. So I guess I can respect that. But your article angers me even more. Please get your facts straight before you publish an article on such a sensitive subject. Your anonymous source is unreliable and has no idea who he is talking about. News is news. But news that gives all the wrong information is simply a major slap in the face to Lawrence's family and friends. They deserve an apology.

Posted by Mister Smith, a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 1, 2010 at 6:13 am

Which facts were wrong?

Posted by blondie, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2010 at 9:23 am

This sorrow goes beyond what any parent or family member could ever imagine. Maybe we need to love one another more, better or harder... In the end, scientific research may not be able to provide the answers we are all desperately hoping to find.

Posted by Saddened, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 1, 2010 at 1:21 pm

My deepest condolences to the Park family for the lost of a beloved child. I know that their pain is deep and wide and knows no bounds. Hopefully, with help, they will one day heal from this great hurt.

Personally, I feel that every time a child dies in this community, it should not be a soapbox for everyone's random thoughts and ideas and speculation. Honor the families, please.

Posted by Helpful Realist, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Some thoughts may seem random to you while they may prove to be very helpful to others, and not random at all. If you have not found wisdom in the posts, that may be your loss.

I do not believe there is dishonor in discussing teen suicides. I believe that the silence about the serious causes contributes to a stifling culture. We can't take back what has been done but we can try to help prevent future cases. Silence is not the answer.

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