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School, city leaders rebuff queries by 'Dr. Phil'

Original post made on Mar 5, 2010

Palo Alto school and city officials have rebuffed efforts by a producer for the "Dr. Phil" TV show to gather Palo Alto students and parents for "a discussion about the pressures that teens face today." But a spokesman for the show's producer said there has been a positive response from potential participants. The invitation "especially" was to Gunn High School parents and students.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 5, 2010, 12:15 AM

Comments (85)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joey
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 5:55 am

This is disgusting!

I hope no parents will contribute to this thinly veiled attempt at publicizing the tragedies that befell our community.
Excessive publicity only contributes to the problem.

Please do not participate.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by GoodShow
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2010 at 7:41 am

I am all for talking out loud issues and problems. Maybe the show will do more good by letting teens and their parents know what danger signs to look for.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 5, 2010 at 7:48 am

What does KARA advise? Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gus
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 5, 2010 at 7:53 am

KARA is an excellent grief counselling service which my family members have benefited from. I trust them, they are local, and have over two decades serving our communities.

Everyone should be concerned when an emotion-based TV show comes to town. A 'good show' for them may lead to a disaster for others.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 5, 2010 at 7:54 am

As long as the emphasis is on the pressures of APs, homework, over-scheduling and helicopter parents, this could be a good thing as it will perhaps advertise the unhealthy aspects of this phenomenon. But, since no parents of any of the suicide victims have verified that the suicides were due to these pressures, then discussing the suicides along with this is wrong. The suicides in fact should not be mentioned at all as many other schools have suicides but not in such a dramatic fashion as what we have in Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 8:09 am

I, for one, think that taking the stance of not talking about the situation openly is a horrifically bad idea for PA kids. There is no scenario I can see where kids not hearing an open discussion about the issue will do them good.

Let's get the reality of the situation out on the table and then *deal with it*.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 8:21 am

I think a round-table discussion in private would be great. Doing it on TV sounds gross.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pamom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 5, 2010 at 9:41 am

If, this is about AP's, academic pressure, then that's fine. But given the recent cluster of suicides, most likely that show will want to focus on that. I'm all for an open discussion, but not in a TV format that has other obligations, such as keeping a large audience riveted to the tv. I agree with some of the above comments, such as we have no idea if the academic pressures played a part. Or did medications? We can only speculate.

But I think the academic pressures really do need a open discussion and it's not healthy to have this much on our kids. Comments have been blaming parents, schools, peer groups, silicon valley type a, so on. Maybe, maybe not.

But the way to fix this is to change the College Admission process. To get into a certain school, a UC or a private, make certain benchmarks, such as gpa and SAT scores. Then admit qualified students into the pool and have a lottery for the final decision. Students wouldn't have to worry about the magical ingredient to get to the college of their choice. The crying wall of rejections would most likely be gone and students could know that, yes, they were good enough to get into "X". Then they could actually focus on learning and what interests them instead of trying to please college admissions officers. The community service requirements have also gotten out of hand -- our teens are expected to be perfect caring adults before they have had a chance to develop.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Quack Quack
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 9:44 am

Dr. Phil is a quack.

The purpose of the show is to sell advertisement not to help a community in need. While these are not mutually exclusive I would not trust a media outlet with no connection to the community.

DON'T DO IT!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 9:56 am

Such a show would be a disaster for Palo Alto kids, but would make money for broadcasters.

Dr. Phil does not have an MD, he is not qualified to talk about anything apart from his salary.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The Real Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:07 am

Dr Phil is a psychologist-he has a Ph D. He is qualified, therefore, to discuss said issues. It is up to the people to decide if they want to listen to him.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cheryl Erber
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:33 am

I would definitely be interested in hearing a discussion on this issue, not necessarily on the Dr. Phil show but I think we do need to hear the various perspectives on this.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Barron Park Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:37 am

Did you knew that another high school tried to commit suicide couple of nights ago? He was sent to Stanford. It was not on the news but it really happened. Something needs to be done NOW, and I do not know what. I am ready to pull my children out of the PAUSD


 +   Like this comment
Posted by midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:40 am

Dr. Phil is making money from other people's tragedies. Counseling, discussion within the schools,and KARA intervention and so forth, are far preferable to a show that appears to attract all the wierdos in the country.
I wouldn't want him to introduce my children or grandchildren with,
"This is going to be a CHANGING day in your life!"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sara
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:41 am

I think a public discussion about the very narrow definition of what this community thinks "success" is would be very welcome. This community seems to think only attendence at an Ivy League or UC equals success. I've heard many parents base their own self esteem on the college their child gets accepted to. I've heard parents say their child's life will be ruined if they don't go to Stanford. It's obscene and elitist. Children are not a one size fits all product. Some have the natural ability to be academics while others have great skills to work with their hands, and others don't need the 24/7 work lifestyle to feel satisfied. What are we so afraid of to have Dr. Phil come to town and bring up these issues?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Felicity
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:48 am

Open discussion is key to survive any issue like the cluster of suicides. A TV show is a circus and yes, they are looking for a story that will hit the hearts of the audience and raise the ratings and this one qualifies in spades. I am sure there is an assumption that the pressures spawn suicides. The pressure is not just about getting into college; the entire system is focused on competition, not cooperation. I wonder if it is as intense back east where there are hundreds more local colleges. Here, the pickings are slim, and hence, there is increased competition for every seat.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Don't do it
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:52 am

Dr Phil looks for the dramatic and the sensational, he needs eyeballs on the screen to make the sponsors happy. And prepared applause lines. yuk.
The camera moves in when women start to cry. Which they usually oblige.
He promotes his family's businesses (his wife's and also his son's).
I think the families deserve a more dignified and respectful response, not cheap, exploitation for a TV show. This is about money, not about therapy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dahveed
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 11:17 am

Dr. Phil always rushes to the sensational events for his TV ratings. This is not the first time. Of course the talk will center on the suicides since that's the sensation and he will proceed to use that to elicit emotions for the cameras.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shashona Williams
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 5, 2010 at 11:49 am

Why don't we finally have the conversation about mental health and how it affects our human natures. Palo Alto/Santa Clara County's rate of suicides in our youth just fits in with the State and National stats (Web Link) yet no one except maybe one or two organizations in the community is willing to talk about what is really affecting our kids and ourselves. Finding a parent who is not on either antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication is becoming a rarity in this community. Yet we all say that we are fine and perfect on the outside. It is time that we Palo Altans come out of DENIAL and realize that perfection can not be achieved! It is not reality!

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Trish McBride
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 5, 2010 at 11:51 am

I think the issue of our "achievement obsessed education system and culture" needs to be brought out into the open. There was a local screening a few weeks ago of the documentary "Race to Nowhere" which specifically addresses these very real issues -- not just in our community but all over America. Before jumping to conclusions, see the trailer or the movie. Here's the link: Web Link.

I don't believe that Dr. Phil's intention is to point fingers at Palo Alto or the recent suicides. I rarely watch his show but I applaud any efforts to start dealing with this silent epidemic. Wake up folks!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 12:06 pm

This exchange of comments has lost track of the original question and devolved into a contest of who can have the worse feelings about our Valley culture.
Sure, I'm against the exploitation of grief that Dr. Phil would bring to the situation. Sure, he doesn't want to focus on our culture, but on our unfortunate suicides.
Sure we're competitive and so are our kids. What do you think brought us to Silicon Valley or Stanford in the first place?
Let's focus on the negative publicity and the invasion of privacy that Dr. Phil would bring to us ... the original issue!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by concerned
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 5, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Unfortunately, if Dr. Phil does manage to get students and/or parents on the show, he will exploit them.He will do everything in his power to sensationalize what's going on in Palo Alto and the schools. He is not interested in helping the situation, he is interested in the ratings. That's all!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by mc
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Please keep Dr. Phil out of our nice and quiet town. Quack for sure.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by caresaboutkids
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Folks, listen up.

What are you worried about? If there is help available, why not accept it? I don't, for a minute, believe the parents of those who have suffered the loss of their children would hesitate to save the lives of others.

Put your egos aside and let the help begin.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tara Steom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I don't consider it exploitation to allow teens to express in a public forum (where they can reach more teens/parents, their views on the pressures they are subjected to in high school, but an effort to bring awareness to the public at large. Some of us are years away from our school days and probably have no idea of the tremendous pressures teens are subjected to in todays world. I think that if the problem is brought to the attention of the public at large, there is a greater liklihood of change. Secrecy in the name of protection is an age on method of suppression and only puts the problem under the table. At least that is my opinion.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by caresaboutkids
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Think of it this way parents: If your child is the next fatality... and you had a chance to go back in time, would you choose to let your child head in that direction or be sitting with you on the Dr. Phil show?

Be proactive, not reactive.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 5, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Some students here might actually choose to go on this show owing to exhibitionism and their personal desire for "fame"
I wouldn't be surprised as many think of themselves first (as opposed to what's sensible or best for the community or their peers)
make me a star!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by trish
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 5, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Hey, if that's what it takes to bring some awareness to these issues, I'm all for it!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtown parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 5, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I heard that some students already agreed to go. I hope something good comes out of it. Perhaps the schools can be evaluated to find out what is the Gunn atmosphere that is depressing our kids and would rather die than keep going. Even when they already graduated. We parents should really ask the district to do this evaluation, but if we are not doing it, maybe some professionals with Dr. Phil will recommend something. We should no longer be in denial. We need to save our kids at any cost or effort.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by KS
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 5, 2010 at 2:13 pm

I would like to share some intriguing information I recently read in a book about social networks called Connected by Christakis and Fowler (a Harvard and a UC professor), in which they spend several pages discussing the phenomenon of cluster suicides.

Although not talking about the problem of suicide contagion in the PAUSD seems counterintuitive, perhaps this is because we looking at the issue from an adult perspective and failing to understand the intricacies of the teenage brain. Christakis and Fowler cite a 1990 study by M.S. Gould et al that concludes that "suicide contagion occurs almost exclusively among the young. Adults older than twenty-four show little, if any, excess likelihood of killing themselves if someone they know has done so or it they simply read about a suicide in the paper. But teenagers, who are especially impressionable and susceptible to peer effects in so many domains of their lives, are another matter."

Regarding the media, the authors discuss another study (by sociologist David Phillips, 1974), which showed that between 1947 and 1968, suicides increased nationally in the month after an article appeared on the front page of the New York Times describing someone who had committed suicide. Phillips dubbed this "the Werther effect," after Goethe's widely read 1774 novel The Sorrows of Young Werther in which the protagonist commits suicide. When some young men began committing suicide in a way that copied the protagonist, the book was banned in several countries.

A 1998 paper by Etzerdsorfer and Sonneck reported that when the Vienna subway system was completed in 1978, it was not long before young people began jumping in front of the trains. "Media reports were vivid, and suicide attempts (half of which were successful) numbered nearly forty per year. Viennese psychiatrists became concerned and started working with journalists. Changes in the reporting of suicides were implemented in 1987, and there was an immediate and enormous drop in suicide attempts to roughly six per year thereafter."

The CDC has suggested alternative ways of publicizing the occurrence of suicide to prevent "suicide contagion" among the young that omit the personal and sympathy-inducing elements, refrain from explaining the method of suicide or mentioning how "wonderful" the deceased teenager was, and refrain from suggesting that the suicide helped solve the teenager's problems.

I cannot think of a better way to encourage further tragedy than by asserting that academic pressures cause (and are therefore alleviated by) suicide, and even worse, giving the issue exposure on a national television show.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 2:30 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 5, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Just encorage Dr. Phil to take his show to San Marino or La Canada School Districts, both have ranked higher than Palo Alto School District and they are both local to his show.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Patty
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Where and when??


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Former PA student
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 3:09 pm

"As long as the emphasis is on the pressures of APs, homework, over-scheduling and helicopter parents"

You left out a major stressor: Community service. It is a guilt trip. Drop it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Don Draper
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 5, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Thank you so much for not agreeing to have our schools on Dr. Phil. It would demean us all. As has been pointed out, talking is good, but being part of the often ridiculous, absurd, sensational realm of daytime television is beneath us all, and would be disrespectful to the memories of those who have passed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Friends. Please read the post of K.S. above describing how damaging such media exposure is in relation to teen cluster suicides. Numerous research studies have documented the damage, lives lost, which can result from media coverage. Since posts get lost in the long string of comments, I hope KS will post this information again. Young lives are at stake.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Another parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Thank you K.S. Well said. I've never been a fan of that show but seeing it from this side makes it seem very tawdry. I agree that this issue needs much discussion, but it should be undertaken in a thoughtful way that doesn't inadvertently cause more problems.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by VoxPop
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 5, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Here's the Wikipedia bio of Dr. Phil; he's not a guy I'd choose as a therapist or a business partner.Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 5:24 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Woodside
on Mar 5, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Dr Phil reminds me of the Palo Alto adults in my network growing up. Always eager to confront and bully up on me with their crowd of gullible paper-smart lemmings. Their authority to practice quack psychology was always based on feel-good warm thoughts that appealed to the masses. Turned out they were 100% wrong in their diagnosis and I will forever bitterly despise them 'till their last breath. Palo Alto, this is a taste of your own medicine.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kim Kardashian
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Yea, after Dr. Phil they can go on Oprah for a good cry, then round out the day with Simon and an American Idol group tryout!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 5:51 pm


So called dr phil does not have a license in any State let alone CA.


PA online, what are you doing about the identity theft issue?

we will contact you to get to the identities involved, easy these days-- thanks S

The big trouble could be if your employees or contractors are in the fraud.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 5, 2010 at 6:33 pm

I do not think anything wholesome could possibly come from anyone talking to a TV personality about the pressures children face in today's upscale neighborhoods. I have had a small experience second-hand (family member) of talking with a columnist about an event that got into the news. This relative was pressed, her story misunderstood and misappropriated in an emotionally scathing way, as this "newsperson" probed and twisted the events being described, to make the point the "newsperson" thought ought to have been made by the story. This is not the best opportunity for your 15 minutes of fame.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The real Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Sharon- dr Phil has a Ph D in psychology-- he is not a so- called doctor. He has earned the title. What source do you base your licensing claim on?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The real Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Sharon- dr Phil has a Ph D in psychology-- he is not a so- called doctor. He has earned the title. What source do you base your licensing claim on?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Any one with an internet connection and enough skill. like typing, can find out that so called dr phil is not licensed in CA nor in any state for any health related practice, he did have a building contractors permit for a while.

Walks like a duck, quakes like a duck


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Phil is a quack not a quake

Any evidence from any state that this guy has a license?
,
day time trash shows of which phils is the most trashy have no place in PA


 +   Like this comment
Posted by trish
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 5, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Ok; I just watched Dr. Phil and I see where you guys are coming from. This issue should not be addressed on his show and I do indeed think he will expoit it. However, it's imperative that the achievement obsessed public and private education system and culture that is being perpetuated in our community and throught this country is exposed for what it is. It's just wrong.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robo David Bowie
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 5, 2010 at 8:56 pm

This show is a great idea!We can publicly discuss whats wrong with our school and society!

Im all for it!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The real sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Sharon-Phil is a PHD in psycholgy. He is not practising medicine. I am not sure what the licensing requirements for being a psycholgist. Why don't you tell us what the requirements are for all 50 states since you seem to suggest that he is doing something illegal. Or have you found another victim for your poisonous bile?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2010 at 1:50 am

Please, this isn't about school! School is just where mental illness shows up--it is a high stress environment where kids reach the age these issues often show up. Reducing homework loads will not help those who are struggling. They need professional care. Focusing on schoolwork is part of the problem you have all created: making it about performance instead of real emotional issues that can occur at home, at work, on the beach, anywhere.

Have a dialogue, but an honest one that won't be filled with a paid audience and hovering producers looking for a good angle. That is the ultimate cop-out. Have the dialogue in the living room with your own children, and actually listen to things they say without always relating it back to school.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunslinger
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2010 at 5:07 am

Dr. Phil is, for the most part, a talented discerner of conflicts. He gets to the root of issues and confronts them with a no BS attitude. I'm not a talk show person myself, but the little I've heard from him has been quite edifying. I love his phrase "how's that workin' for ya?"

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by youknow what
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 6, 2010 at 8:00 am

Honestly, this a very lousy show and I have never been able to watch one till the end. Wondering any of his show really help in reality including the past participants! Well it's just a show..


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mom 1st, MD 2nd
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2010 at 8:29 am

Please, please read the excellent, rational post by KS above.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunslinger
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2010 at 10:33 am

If your kid is so on the brink that wactching a show about other kids with problems will push them over the edge, then it is time for parents to become aware and start paying attention to the warning signs, so that they can turn their kids' lives around. You all want to say that one episode of Dr. Phil trying to help kids on the brink will be the cause of their suicide. Please. Yet, if such minute external references outside of the family can be the cause of a kid's suicide, then why aren't we looking at the correlating factor- this school district?

Dr. Phil is the bomb. He will get to the root of this- and PAUSD is afraid of it


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 6, 2010 at 10:47 am

I have just emailed the Dr. Phil show to voice my objection. Please do the same, if you feel strongly. If anyone has any other ideas about how to voice our objection, please let us know.

It is PREDATORY and unethical to inflict the enormous national media impact of his program to this devastated group of children.

The psychology of suicide contagion is linked to media attention (Dr. Phil, as a professional, should be familiar with the research).

The students have lost 5 of their own. They are grieving. Everyone in this town is doing the best they can to support the kids, teachers, and parents with counseling, track watches, careful support and screening of the students. We are praying that this series of suicides has come to an end, but it is too early to tell, and we are being very vigilant.

If the Dr. Phil program is truly interested in the topic of teen stress, there are many other high-powered schools to focus on. No need to pick on the ONE that is suffering like this!!!!




 +   Like this comment
Posted by pamom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Former PA student says: You left out a major stressor: Community service. It is a guilt trip. Drop it.

I couldn't agree more -- the college admission process needs to change. Colleges are driving these enormous pressures on our kids.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by READ KS POST- PERFECT
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Before another moment goes by, scroll up and read KS's excellent post.


if you can't find it..here it is again, copy and pasted...by KS ( I wish I knew who that was..consider yourself gifted with many thanks for the great post, KS)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I would like to share some intriguing information I recently read in a book about social networks called Connected by Christakis and Fowler (a Harvard and a UC professor), in which they spend several pages discussing the phenomenon of cluster suicides.

Although not talking about the problem of suicide contagion in the PAUSD seems counterintuitive, perhaps this is because we looking at the issue from an adult perspective and failing to understand the intricacies of the teenage brain. Christakis and Fowler cite a 1990 study by M.S. Gould et al that concludes that "suicide contagion occurs almost exclusively among the young. Adults older than twenty-four show little, if any, excess likelihood of killing themselves if someone they know has done so or it they simply read about a suicide in the paper. But teenagers, who are especially impressionable and susceptible to peer effects in so many domains of their lives, are another matter."

Regarding the media, the authors discuss another study (by sociologist David Phillips, 1974), which showed that between 1947 and 1968, suicides increased nationally in the month after an article appeared on the front page of the New York Times describing someone who had committed suicide. Phillips dubbed this "the Werther effect," after Goethe's widely read 1774 novel The Sorrows of Young Werther in which the protagonist commits suicide. When some young men began committing suicide in a way that copied the protagonist, the book was banned in several countries.

A 1998 paper by Etzerdsorfer and Sonneck reported that when the Vienna subway system was completed in 1978, it was not long before young people began jumping in front of the trains. "Media reports were vivid, and suicide attempts (half of which were successful) numbered nearly forty per year. Viennese psychiatrists became concerned and started working with journalists. Changes in the reporting of suicides were implemented in 1987, and there was an immediate and enormous drop in suicide attempts to roughly six per year thereafter."

The CDC has suggested alternative ways of publicizing the occurrence of suicide to prevent "suicide contagion" among the young that omit the personal and sympathy-inducing elements, refrain from explaining the method of suicide or mentioning how "wonderful" the deceased teenager was, and refrain from suggesting that the suicide helped solve the teenager's problems.

I cannot think of a better way to encourage further tragedy than by asserting that academic pressures cause (and are therefore alleviated by) suicide, and even worse, giving the issue exposure on a national television show.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunslinger
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2010 at 1:09 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by youknow what,
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 6, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Editor, It would be nice to have a rating on the side of each comment. That would be very helpful to the readers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by narnia
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 1:38 pm

A PhD in Psychology doesn't qualify anybody to be licensed, anymore than a J D qualifies to be a lawyer, a PhD in civil engineering qualifies anybody to assume responsibility for construction projects or a PhD in physiology qualifies to practice medicine, just to name a few. Particularly, a person with PhD in Psychology cannot see patients and practice if there is no license. A license reflects competency and is obtained only after extensive training, not just schooling. Whereas I don't know if the gentleman in question is or isn't a licensed clinical psychologist, certainly his program is meant and presented as entertainment. So, anybody who chooses to participate should know that the program isn't about to look out for their interests and in fact may turn against their interests. Don't complain afterwards and be prepared for some of your comments to irk other people in the community.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robo David Bowie
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 6, 2010 at 2:05 pm

You people are very mis-informed!

1. AP Classes are not all that difficult. The only "difficult" AP classes are probably AP Chem and APC Physics. Since only well qualified people are in those, the averages are high and the students can handle the workload. AP Bio is not hard if you know what you're doing. The solution to AP pressure? Do nothing.

2. College admissions? Are you people serious? With the rate of human birth being exponential, there are more and more kids applying to colleges every year. Harvard receives around 40k applicants for 1.5k spaces. Of course they have to be selective and have certain demands.

3. The show is a good thing not a bad thing. Some adults here are really dumb. How can a show affect "vulnerable" people? If you already have "vulnerable" people, somethings wrong, and you have failed to reach out to them. Dr. Phil, if you are reading this, I welcome you to host your show.

4. Gunn parents and students should do the show. The city has already failed 5 times, how can we know if they are ever right?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pamom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 6, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Robo you are misinformed yourself. AP English is very hard and so is AP History and the AP languages too. Some of the pressure comes from teachers who grade on a curve. So a student who gets a B or C in an AP here can get a 4 or 5 on the AP exam, but in another high school district, a student who gets an A in an AP class might score a 2 or 3 on the AP test. In other words, grading on a curve can be very tough in our schools.

If our students were in some other area of California or other states, they'd be getting into the colleges of their choice. Not here. Change the college admission process so there is not so much pressure; use a lottery for selection (after meeting the college's entry standards) -- that would go a long way in improving the lives of our kids.


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Posted by Robo David Bowie
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 6, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Hello pamom,

AP classes are quite manageable if you at least do the homework and listen in class. That is a guaranteed B.

The workload for APs is quite exaggerated. The students who are stressed out the most are the ones who arent supposed to take it, but are in it anyways. The qualified students do quite well.


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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 6, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Dr. Phil or whatever his name is, isn't trying to help anyone except his ratings, which would attract more advertisers, translating into a larger contact for himself. Apparently, his stuff has threatened a walkout more than once due to his tyrannical and abusive treatment of them. The guy is a tabloid predator, in the mold of Sally Jessy, Jerry Springer and the rest of the sleaze industry starts. Is it ok to say sleazebag on this forum?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 5:35 pm

The local tragedies are not something to entertain the voyeurs and sell to advertisers.
Nor do they respond to the 10-minute fixes offered by Dr. Phil. Further publicizing the events on TV raise them to a celebrity status and can further add to their attraction as acts for other distressed teenagers to consider doing. The local events have had lots of publicity.
A TV show with these participants has no socially redeeming value. The potential participants would only be there because of the death of others they know. This is hardly honoring them.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2010 at 7:00 pm


Most people approached in PA told phil to go away.

This is good, we take our kids best interests seriously.

It is important to let the advertisers on phils show know that we will take economic action if the circus goes forward.

as phil is only interested in money he will move to some other opportunity.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Gunslinger
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2010 at 9:43 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 6, 2010 at 10:33 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by The real sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2010 at 10:40 pm

"Most people approached in PA told phil to go away."
How does Sharon know this? How does she know who was approached and what they said to Dr Phil's people?

""It is important to let the advertisers on phils show know that we will take economic action if the circus goes forward."
What circus? Itis clear that people in Palo alto wantto speak with dr phil--this is not a unanimous decision like Sharonmakes it out to be.
If you want to boycott Dr Ohil's sponsors that is your right,

"as phil is only interested in money he will move to some other opportunity."
He is interested only in mney based on what evidence, Sharon?

"Unfortunately the Gunn tragedies will attract the likes of WBC and phil, if the phil circus were to go forward we will be plagued by all sorts of predators for a long time."
But, Sharon, you seemed to be supporting the actions of WBC on the threads dealing with that matter. BTW, how is the search for the people who flattened the WBC van tires using face recognition siftware going?

"We need stronger leadership from the PAUSD, they failed in the WBC counter protest fiasco and they are failing in the phil circus."
The PAUSD had their day during the WBC issue, but they could not stop the expression of free speech on public property. they can give advise on the Dr Phil issue, but cannot tell people what or what not to do.
this is not a leadership issue.

"It is time for some adult supervision, by tax paying parents who pay the PAUSD salaries."
Not sure how the PAUSD is involved in this. Are they behind bringing Dr Phil to town? Can they tell people they should not speak with Dr Phil? [Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

"Enough is enough."
I agree, Sharon. Dr Phil has become your target de jour--enough of your diatribes and attacks on people. Enough is enough


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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 7, 2010 at 1:56 am

While I am not a fan of Dr. Phil, a show focusing on the tremendous stresses that Palo Alto students face at school and home seems an excellent idea, especially in light of the tragic deaths. The schools are like pressure cookers for many kids, and the workloads and expectations (by teachers and parents and the kids themselves) are often unrealistic.

From parents' comments I've been reading here over the last few years, it is very clear that more than a few may be part of the problem. Many sound overly involved, unsupportive of teachers and administration, or believe their kids can do no wrong, and are often wronged. The aftermath of the egg brouhaha is proof of this! The sense of entitlement and arrogance is staggering.

The resistance to the show is not surprising, as certain unsavory revelations might come to light. But our students (and those from other cities as well) might truly benefit from the program, and lives could be saved. And to me that is a very good thing.


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Posted by Mom of 3
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 7, 2010 at 11:07 am

If there is a show, I think it is unlikely that it will showcase simply "arrogant parents." This is not a fair comment, since we don't truly know the circumstances of each the students who died. The Palo Alto schools benefit from having many highly qualified students and extensive parent support, both in terms of volunteer hours and financial support. That is part of why we attract competent teachers. However, bright kids are statistically more likely to be "quirky" kids, with disabilities that are not visable and may not be understood. Many of these kids learn better in flexible environments, but it is very difficult to incorporate that into a large school environment. This certainly adds to stress for many students, but may not have been a factor in any of these cases. This is not a problem that can be distilled into a simple answer.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2010 at 11:23 am

Why was my posting removed? All I said was that our school leaders are not addressing the academic stress problem and this will finally bring it to light. Most every parent I speak to thinks the academic stress is too much in Palo Alto. Remember that PAUSD are public, not private schools - they need to be more balanced than private schools. Let's see how long my posting lasts now.


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Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 7, 2010 at 12:18 pm

It ISN'T a matter of simply too much academics or academic stress that is "a bit too much for some to handle." That is a clever put down but generally not accurate.
It is true in the world there are a range of people and capabilities, including academic talents and inclinations. Still, with all these highly educated parents, we have many students aiming for an academic future.
Competition is also a fact of life, but I argue that it sure as heck isn't a level playing field here.
I would wish a return to the times of learning for learning's sake and not taking a course of study for the grade or to one-up other students.
Here, things are sometimes parent managed, and if you don't have that "benefit" you will be squeezed out when it comes time for the paper record/college apps.
I just don't think some of the "high achiever" students stand on their own two feet around here. A student who actually does that, in truth, can get run over by those who are projects of their parents, with a planned "system" behind them.
I DO think the "situation" here that Dr. Phil would like to address (whether the suicides, stress, high achieving students, etc.) reflects much more on some parents here than on the school district.
It IS a question of a prevailing attitude of condescension, superiority, contrived academic achievement based on parent-based prepping, tutoring, learning the curriculum in advance for competitive reasons in order to "beat" the other students. This is pronounced at the high school level. It is a FALSE competition. People who are publicized as achievers may or may not have had every possible advantage and be a "product" rather than self-inspired achiever, in whatever endeavour.
This city is disheartening. Students are shameless on constantly promoting themselves and their latest "wins" - parents look far afar for ways for their kids to get some brownie point. I see very little serendipitous exploration, true learning, creativity. I heartily dislike the constant bragging of test scores, grades, SAT scores, AP scores. In other words, I find students here more exhibitionist and self-promotional than in other areas. (I happen to have contact with schools and students over a wide region of the country.)
The whole idea of taking AP classes, for example, for advanced learning in a subject of interest to the student has been thrown out in current competitive times where any and all AP courses are taken merely for the college apps and not out of any individual interest on the part of the student. It is a COMPETITION through and through. Oh, so and so took 8 AP's - isn't he cool?! This puts PRESSURE on the younger students up and coming in the system, especially those who are academically inclined. Some parents won't rest, their students MUST move a year ahead of their grade, at the very highest math lane, and to do this, they put the student in year-round paid tutoring with homework and careful preparation.One can say it's a free world, but it IS stressful when a student realizes many of their peers have a clever system behind them and that they don't do their own schoolwork or learn as they go along, taking classes, but have a ready A because they have already been prepped on the material.
I DO see what someone else wrote, ridiculous contrived so-called "community service" hours for college apps.
It's been proven that those with the money can take extensive SAT prepping and raise their test scores. These scores matter a lot - even a few points - even at the highest score levels - in these highly competitive college admissions times.
Around here it is astonishing that many students are prepped for just about everything, SAT is the least of it. It originates from the cram schools.
We know those who have had YEARS of prepping for the high school level math contests. I was distinctly told by a mother that her child could not compete because the student had "only" had three years of tutoring specifically for math contests and this was not enough! In other words, everything is contrived. It's difficult to describe, but a student with high talent and interest may be disheartened and tossed aside. God forbid the late bloomer. Little so and so must be prepared for math contests starting at an early age.
My final thought is Palo Alto is not the center of the world and I encourage youth to look outside this bubble.


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Posted by pares
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 7, 2010 at 1:08 pm

How the heck will my garbage collector know if I am in compliance? I have my garbage in bags, plastic or paper. Right now the can goes right into the fork lift and into the truck's container. So, will there be random checks, stops and even if someone opened the top of the bag, well are they going to rout around to see the bottom?

I do recycle and even try to clean up paper that was in contact with food, such as a loaf of bread or flour. But the rules now are, you're not supposed to recyle paper that has food on it. So will the green police look for that too, and will the city demand we always take time to do this?

Sounds Orwellian to me . . .


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Posted by if you really care
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2010 at 4:12 pm



I think talking about this subject so much is CRAZY, and it's the cultures that overanalyze that are probably most at risk,

during the olympics I must have seen a DOZEN antidepressant commercials with yap yap YAP about suicide risks, as if it was like saying "pass the salt please" analyze that Dr. Phil,

parents are asked to sit down and talk with their kids about suicide, and kids make pacts that they won't ever do it (how dreary is that to deal with?), and not be afraid to use the word often???????

there is the camp that can't get enough of this - usually depressed adults themselves, who can't wait to "share" and get therapy out of it themselves, even research supports, this is not stuff you YAP about!

KS posted the most important thing about this, this is not the stuff YOUNG adults should be asked to digest or deal with -

IF you really care, memorize the following

Posted by KS, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 5, 2010 at 2:13 pm

I would like to share some intriguing information I recently read in a book about social networks called Connected by Christakis and Fowler (a Harvard and a UC professor), in which they spend several pages discussing the phenomenon of cluster suicides.

Although not talking about the problem of suicide contagion in the PAUSD seems counterintuitive, perhaps this is because we looking at the issue from an adult perspective and failing to understand the intricacies of the teenage brain. Christakis and Fowler cite a 1990 study by M.S. Gould et al that concludes that "suicide contagion occurs almost exclusively among the young. Adults older than twenty-four show little, if any, excess likelihood of killing themselves if someone they know has done so or it they simply read about a suicide in the paper. But teenagers, who are especially impressionable and susceptible to peer effects in so many domains of their lives, are another matter."

Regarding the media, the authors discuss another study (by sociologist David Phillips, 1974), which showed that between 1947 and 1968, suicides increased nationally in the month after an article appeared on the front page of the New York Times describing someone who had committed suicide. Phillips dubbed this "the Werther effect," after Goethe's widely read 1774 novel The Sorrows of Young Werther in which the protagonist commits suicide. When some young men began committing suicide in a way that copied the protagonist, the book was banned in several countries.

A 1998 paper by Etzerdsorfer and Sonneck reported that when the Vienna subway system was completed in 1978, it was not long before young people began jumping in front of the trains. "Media reports were vivid, and suicide attempts (half of which were successful) numbered nearly forty per year. Viennese psychiatrists became concerned and started working with journalists. Changes in the reporting of suicides were implemented in 1987, and there was an immediate and enormous drop in suicide attempts to roughly six per year thereafter."

The CDC has suggested alternative ways of publicizing the occurrence of suicide to prevent "suicide contagion" among the young that omit the personal and sympathy-inducing elements, refrain from explaining the method of suicide or mentioning how "wonderful" the deceased teenager was, and refrain from suggesting that the suicide helped solve the teenager's problems.

I cannot think of a better way to encourage further tragedy than by asserting that academic pressures cause (and are therefore alleviated by) suicide, and even worse, giving the issue exposure on a national television show.




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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2010 at 4:19 pm

The Dr. Phil site has updated the description:

Teens Under Pressure
Studies show that teenagers are more stressed out than ever before. From the pressure to perform in school, to getting into college and helping with family finances, many teens are feeling the weight the world on their shoulders. Could you be missing cues that your child is in trouble? Then, Hill Harper, co-star of CSI: NY, has a candid conversation with a group of young adults to find out what pushes them to the brink. And, Dr. Phil features the documentary Race to Nowhere, which examines the pressure many teens feel to succeed. It's an important Dr. Phil you don't want to miss!


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Posted by if you really care
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2010 at 4:23 pm



I especially like the part

"....the book was banned in several countries."

this subject deserves some bans,

ban the word suicide from commercials, ban having to learn about it, ban gory details, ban tying it to a specific problem like grades,

this is like the only thing adults want to talk to young people about



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Posted by if you really care
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2010 at 4:30 pm



oh lovely,

"a candid conversation with a group of young adults to find out what pushes them to the brink"

apparently Dr. Phil has not bothered to learn anything about this problem

this is evidence the guy is RECKLESS



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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2010 at 5:18 pm



Our understanding is that all Palo Alto families who were approached declined to be involved in this circus and declined to sign permission for their under 18 kids-- so it will a non event as far as Gunn and Palo Alto are concerned-- what a relief.

Unfortunately people seeking to profit from these tragedies will continue to try and cash in by selling psychobabble and snake oil.

phil tried and failed-- good.


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Posted by ameri
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 7, 2010 at 5:29 pm

what you are witnessing is,the coming out of long repreessed energies of a technical society,that ignores self examination.


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Posted by Cyborg Bowie
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 7, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Sharon,

If you have not already heard, some Gunn parents and students agreed and have already done the meeting with Dr. Phil.

To my understanding, Phil did not fail.


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Posted by Brian
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2010 at 4:08 am

KS, [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]
You don't address how all these studies are meaningless in an era of the Internet and Facebook. The access of students to media, suicide information and hype about these suicides is happening in blogs, Facebook walls, etc. All the information you are pointing to assumes none of this exists, and in fact would say that in the existence of all of this sensationalism, what the local newspapers print actually has almost no effect, since the children we are worried about are far more interested in the Facebook posts and blogs that represent the new media.

So a simple Dr Phil show will get lost in the sea of other reports, blog posts and Facebook stories that have been talking about this all for months.

TV and traditional newspapers are now insignificant. Please don't post obsolete statistics that mean nothing in an age of internet.


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Posted by The Real Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2010 at 6:16 am

"Our understanding is that all Palo Alto families who were approached declined to be involved in this circus and declined to sign permission for their under 18 kids-- so it will a non event as far as Gunn and Palo Alto are concerned-- what a relief."

who is "our" Sharon? How do you know which families were approached?
It was a non-event to begin with--you tried whipping up a frenzy by denigrating Dr Phil.
we will see what is on his show on friday


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