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High school student attempts suicide, lives

Original post made on Sep 28, 2007

A student from a high school in Palo Alto jumped off the San Antonio Road overpass to U.S. Highway 101 this morning, landing in the freeway. The student was attempting to commit suicide, police Sgt. Sandra Brown said.

This story contains 179 words.

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Comments (47)

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 28, 2007 at 4:32 pm

This is so sad and very scary. My thoughts go out to his family and prayers for a safe recovery. Please let him get the help he needs.

My daughter is in the Paly class of 2006, which had two suicides during their high school years.

This is something that affects the whole community in the school, parents, students and staff. God Bless you all.

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Posted by HH
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 28, 2007 at 6:05 pm

Get this boy the help he needs, and use this scary incident to further educate children about the very real dangers of depression. We need to make this disease as known about as other diseases, with no shame attached for having it, and a lot of knowledge about it symtoms.

My heart goes out to this boy and his family. My hope is that he will go on to a full recovery, and lead a rewarding life.

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Posted by KT
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2007 at 12:35 pm

it is all of the pressure that these kids's almost like they have to be genuises to get into colleges these days. this poor kid needs a lot of support and encouragement.
his parents must feel awful not to have seen this coming.

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Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 29, 2007 at 1:20 pm

"it is all of the pressure that these kids face"

With respect, I think it is that we do not teach kids how to experience failure, by letting them fail, starting at an early age. Banning kickball in grade school is an example (can't have winners and losers or feeling of failure). Self esteem is a two-way street, success and is not just success.

If parents are telling their kids that they MUST get into college, no matter what their abilities or aspirations, then the parents are, indeed, pressuring their kids. How many PA parents tell their kids that it is OK to join the military or drive a truck or be a gardener for a living? Answer: Very few. How many parents stick up for their kids, against the system, even when they know they are wrong and/or failing? Answer: Many.

Let our kids is very healthy for them.

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Posted by spot on
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 29, 2007 at 1:30 pm

I completely agree with Jeremy, PA parents put way to much pressure on kids because they want them to succeed and some live in a nice community such as PA. But they have their blinders on when they disagree with something or think something is not going to turn out good for their children. Kids need to learn to fail and then pick them selves up after.

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Posted by pa resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2007 at 1:47 pm

I agree with those who mention the dangers of putting too much pressure on teens. However, we really have no idea why this particular child was so distraught. One thing's for sure, he's one lucky kids to have survived and now he's hopefully getting the help he needs. My thoughts are with him and his family.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 29, 2007 at 5:07 pm

Stress is at an alarming level right now for high school juniors and seniors. I was just at back to school night at Palo Alto High School and was told by one teacher, very affectionately, that she is very concerned about the amount of stress on the kids and that she was trying her best to alleviate it. The very next words out of her mouth was that they could turn in the required 5 response papers early and then get extra credit for turning in 3 more. Of course, alot of the kids then feel compelled to do it. Isn't five response papers in one semester enough? These kids are trying to write college essays, fill out college applications, visit colleges, request teacher recommendations, etc. To throw extra writing at them now is just insane and only adds to the already high stress level.

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Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 29, 2007 at 6:14 pm


If the standard stress in PA highs schools it too much for your child, PLEASE tell him and/or her that you love them, and you would be more than happy if they join the military or drive a bus or do manual labor. It sounds like it is YOUR stress that is coming out here.

Let them fail, on a regular basis, but let them do it according their own aspirations and abilities. They WILL have their ups and downs, and you should be there to support them. But don't make it worse for them by forcing your own will (and angst) on them. Just let them know that college is only one, of many, options in life.

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Posted by Sighing Child
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2007 at 6:48 pm

Reading these comments makes me mad...

None of us know any of the real facts about the incident, and speculating on the overburden of "Palo Alto stress" is really quite irrelevant...there could have been millions of other things going on in this case. Famiy death, anyone? Lack of friendship? Just plain boredom??

College applications are mentioned NOWHERE in this article! so..why discuss them in the comments?

Please...just as you said,"don't make it worse by forcing your own angst on them". Including angst about high school stress and the state of "kids these days".

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 29, 2007 at 7:37 pm

Jeremy - Of course, I don't do any of the obvious things you suggested. Furthermore, I'M not in the classroom and I'M not writing the papers...applying to college, taking tests, etc. This is stress placed directly on the kids, not ME.

Sighing Child - All of the things I mentioned do cause additional stress on the kids...that's the point. Noone is speculating on what happened in this case because noone knows, including you. Everyone knows that too much school work does cause stress and stress does cause kids to act in this fashion.

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Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 29, 2007 at 7:52 pm


I'm not sure that I understand. Are you OK with your kid(s) NOT going to college?

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2007 at 9:05 pm

You know, I just don't think we can assume it was school stress. Thousands of kids around here are stressed by school demands--that in and of itself doesn't cause a suicide attempt.

It could be something entirely different--relationship ended, mental illness, substance abuse, broken family. We don't know and, frankly, I hope we never have reason to learn--I hope that the kid gets better and quietly and happily goes on to a long fulfilling life.

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Posted by HH
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 29, 2007 at 9:10 pm

Teen suicides are probably 99% (maybe 100%) due to undiagnosed and/or untreated depression.

Depression is a disease. Some individuals have a stronger propensity for depression; genetic factors are at play, and environment is also a factor.

Individuals who inherit a propensity for depressive illness are often overcome with depression after exposure to a single sinificant stressor. For example, it's a fact that some children who leave home for the first time, to attend university, fall intyo a depression. The stressor (in this case, homesickness, unresolved by vulnerable, or insufficient, personal defense mechanisms)causes chemical changes in the brain that leave the student vulnerable to the slow, insidious, sometimes deadly cycle of defeatest and negative thinking that leads to depression.

There are many things that lead to the stress that triggers a depressive episode. the speed at which a depression weaves its horrendous web of self destruction varies, according to the individual. There are nearly as many stressors as there are individuals, so one has to be careful about generalizing to just one thing, like academic pressure (although that is a prominent stressor)

School pressures - including peer pressure, social status pressure, academic pressure, self-indiced pressures born of obsessive perfectionism - - all these can lead the more suspectable child into danger.

Being depressed is an experiential thing. It is very difficult for someone who has never suffered a depression to understand the sheer unbearable pain of clinical depression. "Nightmare" doesn't even begin to describe the profound sense of a total collapse of self-worth, a sense of no future on the horizon, and profound physical changes that can come on with rapid speed, to a point where the victim of depression hardly has any idea what's happening. There is a complete collapse of perspective, with the victim bound up in a cycle of defeatist thought that appears logical - in fact, flawlessly so.

What's tragic about suicide, and the general onset if depression in general - in all populations - is that there is so little __visceral__ understanding of what depression __feels__ like.

Another tragedy is that there are __excellent__ tools that have been around for quite some time, that not only help victims of depression and anxiety to cope with the onset of their illness (and sometimes, find an outright cure).

Cognitive scientists and psychiatrists have been working for almost three decades on powerful theraputic tools - many tested in long-term clinical trials - capable of helping someone troubled by the distorted thinking that contributes so mightily to depression.

If some of these tools were deployed at the grammer school level - en masse - and delivered in a language that children understood, so many lives could be altered for the better, including the lives of children who are not depressives, but who are bothered by distorted thinking that leads them to overlook opportunity, or keeps them from getting what they want in life, in a way that leads to general happiness.

Of course, there is drug therapy available. Properly administered and monitored under the guidance of a competent psychiatrist, and accompanied by cognitive or longer-term theraputic modalities, drugs can work wonders for kids (again, properly monitored, because there are potential dangers of using SSRI's {Prozac , Zoloft, etc.) in developing children], __IF__ other theraputic, non-drug modalities have failed.

Educate yourself, your children, and your school personnel. There are lots of books, but the one I would most heartily recommend is
Web Link given away at least 2 dozen copies of this book to friends, family, and pure strangers - it's excellent).

This is NOT a pop psychology book (the title is somewhat lightweight), but information and excercises that have been shown to WORK in hundreds of extende clinical settings.

Read the first 50 pages or so of this book, especially the part that has to to with "distorted thinking" - something we all engage in, but something that has far more negative impacts on those who have a propensity for depression. Study those distortions, look for them in yuor child's (and your) thinking and behavior patterns. Try doing some of the excercises (even relatively healthy individuals can profit in their lives by having these distortions, which we all engage, deconstructed, and shown how to copr with them.

THis is not anything at all like the "pwer of positive thinking". It's rather a means to help every child - if translated into language that children can understand - get a grip on thinking patterns that diminish their lives. Remove the barriers cause by these universal distortions, and self-esteem "just happens". As well, children more impacted by stressors than others can get a head start on dealing with the problems that they will encounter in their future lives, in ways that will very possibly save their lives from the senseless, and tragic consequence to extreme distorted thinkingi that leads to severe depression, and sometimes, suicide.

Love your children, and give them (and yourselves) the information they need (clinically proven in hundreds of long-term studies to provide results) to live more fulfilled lives. Be kind to yourselves, as well. Life can be so rich, so full. Live.

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Posted by Sports_Over_Academics
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2007 at 10:32 pm

Why are there so much stress on high school kids these days? Competition is fierce for academic excellence and yet it might not mean much in the end. Everyone knows there are plenty of academically outstanding students who get rejected by top colleges. If you are not outstanding, oh well, you can just about forget it. How depressing.

Colleges can be picky about academically sound students because they are dime a dozen. On the other hand, colleges will spare no effort in attracting athletically sound students. If a college thinks you can win a ball game or two for them, look out. Forget academics, just the minimum requirement will do.

Colleges these days are run more like a business than a place of higher learning. Ask not what they can do for you but what you can do for them. If you are sporty and look like you can win some games for them, you are money. How much is a straight-A student worth? Remember, they are dime a dozen.

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Posted by P. NAR
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2007 at 11:35 pm

Hi Everyone....

I am one of those people who SAW this happening.. stopped the car and came out to help this person...

EVERYONE, as a witness of this incident, I can make a statement that this person did NOT (DID NOT) had an intention of falling from the overpass... maybe the person was low on sugar or something....

I hope this person recovers .....

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Posted by Puzzled
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2007 at 6:11 am

"Join the military" -- why do you think this is less stressful than going to college?

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2007 at 1:11 pm

P. Nar,

What an awful thing to have witness. Unfortunately, I think the kid must have made his intentions clear to the police--he was conscious--I'm assuming he told them what he was trying to do--which isn't to say he didn't change his mind once he'd jumped. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been so definite about it being a suicide attempt.

There was an article on Golden Gate Bridge jumpers where one of the rare jumpers who survived realized, mid-jump, that all of the problems which had made him suicidal could be fixed--everything in his life could be.

Except for the fact he'd jumped off the bridge.

I agree with HH that depression was at the root. Poor kid.

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Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 30, 2007 at 1:29 pm

I don't know if this particular jumper was suicidal or not. However, it is a fact that teenage suicide has gone up significantly since the 1950's. What has changed?

The people who say it is due a disease called depression, I would ask, is this disease genetic? If so, have the population genetics changed so much since 1950? If not, then environmental factors must have brought on this disease. Is it a virus? Or is it behavioral?

My bias is that it is behavioral. Kids are not allowed to fail often enough, early enough. They are protected against realistic everday problems. Once they get out from under the protective blanket, they then go into a major depression, when they face a failure.

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Posted by So Sad
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2007 at 1:56 pm

Suicides and attempted suicides don't happen as often in Menlo, Los Altos, Mt View or EPA. They've always been higher in PA. Tragic.

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Posted by Patricia
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 30, 2007 at 3:38 pm

I think there is way too much stress high school kids in Palo Alto - from the parents. It isn't simply a matter of your child going to college - these kids have to get into Ivy league colleges. I'm a firm believer in the junior college system - and we have a fabulous one here. I view it as a kind of "break year" without losing a whole academic year. It provides a transition year for your child to separate from the high school scene, parents, friends etc. But the snotty, snide remarks my kids have had to put up with (from the PARENTS of some of thier friends) are so insulting I could spit. It is NOT because we are poor, or my kids are stupid, lack ambition or talent.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 30, 2007 at 5:36 pm

I agree, God forbid your child not get into an Ivy - the other parents will put you down.

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Posted by natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 30, 2007 at 6:24 pm

I went to an Ivy, my brother went to a UC, my sister to a smaller college and then transferred to Stanford.

My elementary school kids are already hearing from some of their peers, "I have to get straight A's so I can get into Harvard." My response, now and over time, is "Whenthe time comes we'll find a college that fits you. Just cause you COULD go doesn't mean you SHOULD go."

I know parents who are already all torqued up about their kids being the BEST. Woohoo, fifth grade valedictorian. I'm putting my parenting efforts elsewhere, on the theory that my kids might not crash and burn later in life from having spent all their energy and youth pursuing one narrow version of success.

I wish more Silicon Valley parents could have a little more faith in their kids' capacity to succeed, a broader vision of success, and a little less concern about how they LOOK. Kids are not accessories.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2007 at 7:29 pm


Depression seems to have some hereditary factors--particularly when it's something like bipolar diseases, which seems to have a genetic link. Alcoholism and addiction, which can be forms of self-medication for depression, also seem to have hereditary patterns.

That said, yes, of course, there are environmental triggers. Like just about any kind of disease, or perhaps group of symptoms, it's a combination of factors. I'm not sure if life around here creates depression as much as it offers no real protection from it.

My memory of high school is that a lot of kids screwed up for a while, but since it was less competitive, those screw-ups didn't seem like the end of the world.

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2007 at 8:46 pm

I wish there were less pressure on our kids. If parents want good jobs for their kids, they should focus elsewhere. It is WHO you know. At my old job, the millionaires were those who studied what they wanted... like Russian Literature.

Stress, grade inflation, peers... it is tough. Just tell them you love them and be there for them.

Of course, we don't know what the problem was so I'm just addressing some of the comments I have read.

Depression can be treated and is just as shameful as diabetes is... meaning it is not shameful at all.

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Posted by P NAR
a resident of another community
on Sep 30, 2007 at 10:23 pm

Guys, you have got to stop saying all the time that kids are in pressure, depression etc....

I am myself a college going student and people are not frustrated (except semester end exams).... I am an engineering student and people enjoy the pressure...

Suicide attempt due to pressure from school/college is not the case... depression could be the reason of something else but definitely not studies... (unless you just don't wanna do it and someone is forcing you)....

please think over it

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Posted by Carpe Deum
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 30, 2007 at 11:08 pm

The daughter of a friend just recently died in a horrendous car accident. She couldn't have seen it coming. Died instantly.

I just read about a water-borne brain-eating amoeba that can enter the nose of swimmers in lakes. No cure. Six deaths in the U.S. this year.

Someone in our community died just this spring when a car accident spilled over the median on 101.

Suicide bombers are taking lives by the thousands overseas.

Billions of people lack adequate access to food, water, shelter and health care.

If you're alive and healthy and so is your family, and you're living in peace and plenty... and you realize death could take any of us... any time... and you're STILL STRESSED about your smart and capable kids going to the "best" college... and you're stressing them about it too, that should be considered a sin. Truly, a vile sin.

Now can we stop that madness and stop speculating about this poor child?

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Posted by HH
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 1, 2007 at 12:27 am

Carpe Deum, It's better to talk about the causes and effects fo depression - and other mental illnesses - than not. These illnesses have been too long shunted into the corners of our culture.

These are __psychophysiological__ diseases that show real symptoms, with real warning signals.

The more we talk about, and learn about, stress and depression, the less we will see of it.

Perhaps this "poor child" wouldn't have had to go through what he went through if he had been better educated aboutthe effects of distorted cognition on his mental health, and had been taught in a way that either enabled him to cope, or seek the help of a competent professional.

We should not sweep these things under the rug; doing so won't make them go away.

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Posted by KT
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2007 at 12:50 am

PNAR...i think you might enjoy the pressure, but that doesn't mean that the kid whose parents want him to get in to Harvard on scholarship next year isn't stressed out and under pressure...we are all different.

I am not advocating that the kid who potentially attempted suicide was strung out because of the pressures of school.....but just reading this article made me think about how ridiculously competitive it is nowadays. I just can't believe that a student needs high school teacher recommendations!!! What's have to have a high school research project and two first author publications before even being considered for college!

I know it has nothing to do with this incident, but it is just something that is worth talking/writing about!
Again, I feel horrible for this poor kid....I agree that this could have been caused by depression or some type of chemical imbalance. It also could have been caused by family problems....anything.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 1, 2007 at 12:55 pm

P NAR is obviously unfamiliar with the sad stories of several suicides of Paly students in recent years, I believe school stress had everything to do with it and there are some efforts to try to acknowledge school stress

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Posted by PA mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 1, 2007 at 2:23 pm

There is a recognition of school stress - but only lip-service to alleviate it. Teachers need to respect students. Student time is not infinite, they have other interests beyond school, they have 7 classes, not just one. Are most teachers spending 3-4 hours after school on their school work?

My questions -

Why don't teachers stick to the test schedule?
Why are high school kids still coloring their homework projects?
Why is busy work homework assigned on weekends which should be used for studying and long-term projects?
Why don't teachers test on what they teach and teach what they plan on testing?
Why do we have so many teachers who our kids can not understand (and by that, I mean their english, not their teaching methods)
Why do teachers wait to hand back homework/science notebooks, etc. til the day before a test instead of much earlier?

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 1, 2007 at 2:30 pm

Well said, PA mom and I will increase your questions

Why do teachers insist on weed pulling and family involvement in Baylands cleanup projects as part of grades and extra credit?

Why don't teachers look at STAR test results and SAT results and add them to grades, or at least take them into account when recommending them for next year's classes.

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Posted by Paly06 mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 1, 2007 at 2:51 pm

HH, thank you for your informative comments. You're right about not sweeping this under the rug. My son was a Paly 2006 grad - the class who lost two classmates to suicide. It affected him profoundly. I remember comforting him after the first death and telling him that although painful losses are sadly part of high school life, I didn't think it'd be so soon - fall of freshman year.
My own middle & high schools had their share of suicides and drunk driving deaths back in the mid 70's. I read all the comments people have written here, and I wonder if there IS an increase in suicides, and whether it IS the ivy-league stress that's at fault. My old high school wasn't the pressure cooker that Gunn & Paly are - only a few went on to Ivys - yet we had more suicides and attempts. How do you explain the differences? I don't know. But I found this comment by OhlonePar particularly significant and profound:
"I'm not sure if life around here creates depression as much as it offers no real protection from it."
I think this is where HH is coming from. Perhaps what my high school was missing was adequate protection. It's not that we were under so much more stress (we weren't), it's that we weren't taught how to cope with stress, and the adults in our life weren't taught how to recognize the warning signals.

HH, keep posting. Please.

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Posted by HH
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 1, 2007 at 3:04 pm

KT, "Again, I feel horrible for this poor kid....I agree that this could have been caused by depression or some type of chemical imbalance. It also could have been caused by family problems....anything."
The "cause" is complex. It's a mistaken notion to generalize about depression. The "chemical imbalance" needs to be there for suicidal ideation (or action) to take place; that's a pretty sound fact. The "chemical imbalance" can be brought on by a host of stressors, or just one. And, some kids are not at susceptible to depressive illness, while some others are borderline, and still others living through an almost constant state of dysthemia, no matgter their environment.

We simply need to know more about depression, and defuse the reluctance to come out about it, discuss it, and prepare students to deal with it. (one in three Americans will suffer from a depression in their lifetime; that alone should make us want to familiarize ourselves with coping tools that relive symptoms, and save lives.)

PA Mom: "Are most teachers spending 3-4 hours after school on their school work?"
Many are; in fact, many spend more time thatn that. Ask a teacher sho assigns written papers how much time it takes to correct those papers, as well as planning for additional classes, etc. etc. etc.

That said, I agree that extreme academic and peer pressures are extant within PAUSD. It comes with the territory. In a way, we have created our own monster.

Teachers are __also__ under enormous stress. Have you considered that? Have you considered that there are __structural__ deficiencies in the demands and expectations placed on teachers?

btw, we __are__ beginning to migrate to a very class-oriented K-12 system where citizens will do almost anything to get their kids placed in certain schools. There is not a whole lot of difference between what I've seen here, and in some pre-school and K-12 systems in NYC and other large cities - and what we currently see in places like Japan, where getting into the right grammar school is practically a life-defining matter.

It's pretty sick, when you think about it, because so much human potential is wasted, with additional potential lost because the current K-12 model of education fails to pick up and reinforce trtaits that are as important - if not more important - for success and "happiness" (somewhat of a myth. in itself) than the our current curriculum and its demands.

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Posted by Education? What's that?
a resident of Triple El
on Oct 1, 2007 at 4:45 pm

Parent says:
1) "Why do teachers insist on weed pulling and family involvement in Baylands cleanup projects as part of grades and extra credit?"

2) "Why don't teachers look at STAR test results and SAT results and add them to grades, or at least take them into account when recommending them for next year's classes."


1) Because it's good for the soul, heart and body to get out from behind one's cell phone, Wii, and MTV to discover other horizons - like physical involvement with the earth that we live on. I hope we see more of this.

2) Because those tests are essentially meaningless - in fact they only indicate a certain level of "smartness". Recent research bears this out very clearly. For instance, we are seeing multiple point increases in "IQ" from one generation to the next. That's just weird, and points to the probable fact that we are learning to take tests better. Is that education?

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Posted by NoIvy4me
a resident of another community
on Oct 1, 2007 at 5:34 pm

Sighing Child-Stress from school caused this attempt and the other 2 successes of suicide that happened, there's no question.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 1, 2007 at 5:42 pm


Please don't assume that my family spend all their time sitting at a computer, using a cell phone, playing computer games and watching tv.
My kids are involved in sports, which take up a lot of their time and mine. We are involved in our church and that is not just an hour on Sunday commitment. My high schooler is doing choir, which takes up a lot of time and drivers ed which requires being at school at 7.00 a.m. after a 30 minute bicycle ride.

I have also had very poor classroom grades as a result of not doing extra credit and so called required weed pulling. I have children who score very high on tests whether they be classroom tests or STAR/SATs, but do occasionally leave homework at home or forget to get me to do something that is required for a grade.

I believe that the kids should be learning in the classroom and be tested on what they know. Yes, I realise that some people are poor test takers and need help. But there are some very bright kids with great test results getting poor grades because they don't staple their homework the right way.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2007 at 5:57 pm


I know what you're saying--heck, I was in the PA housing market not so long ago and it becomes very, very clear just how big the school factor is.

That said, I think there is a critical difference between here and countries like Japan. I think people are under the misapprehension that Paly and Gunn are feeder schools to the big-name universities, when, in fact, going to Paly and Gunn can make it much harder to get into a top school. It's that much harder to rank at the top of your class or be outstanding among the outstanding. I think the kids are well prepared for college once they go, but Stanford and the Ivies shoot for geographic diversity. There's no question in my mind that Stanford could pull a perfectly qualified freshman class and never leave the state.

The teachers do face a ton of pressure here. For most families, average just doesn't cut it. There's also, I think, a sense of insecurity about the future that gets funneled onto the kids. I mean to (briefly) visit my favorite subject--isn't that part of the MI context? We must prepare our kids NOW for the future. If they don't know Mandarin, well, who knows where they'll end up. This is countered by if they don't know math and science, who knows where they'll end up?

Fact is, our kids will probably end up doing jobs that don't yet exist and require skills we have yet to create.

I know a lot of depressed adults around here--Silicon Valley can make you feel like you're never good enough. There's pretty much always someone who's richer, smarter and more important than you. And, no, just because you make more than anyone else than your family back in Iowa doesn't mean you can afford a house.

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Posted by Carpe Deum
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 1, 2007 at 8:29 pm

HH, I think you misunderstood me. I don't want to sweep anything under the rug. Where did I say that? I was just saying that it's a shame some people have almost everything they could want in life and spend so much time stressing themselves and their kids by focusing on getting into a "good" college, which is really more about status than education anyway.

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Posted by Max
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 18, 2007 at 1:05 am

I hope no one ignores the possibility of social issues. The academic pressures are difficult, no doubt, but I would imagine that an inability to relate or confide in anyone is more morally damaging. From where I sit, I don't see suicidal acts as the result of just one problem. Rather, it's the culmination of several that build up at once. Alleviating stress would only help solve part of the problem.

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Posted by Cindy
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 26, 2008 at 10:52 am

im a 17 year old girl and yes parents do put pressure on kids. My mom won't even pay for any college unless i get into 7 year accelerated medicine or guaranteed medical school. She said its a waste of her money and that what would people think of her?! I am not her accesory!!!

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Posted by Understanding parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2008 at 11:07 am


My heart goes out to you. You need someone to help you, to talk to. I have no idea about the relationship between you and your mom, but please try and find someone you can talk to about this. It may be a teacher or TA/counsellor at school, or a friend's parent, or someone from a church or youth organisation. There are people out there who are willing to listen to you and do what they can to help.

You are not alone even if you feel it. The fact that you have written here shows that you are looking for help but feel that there is no one else. Look up teen services in the phone book if there is no one else, but please, find someone to talk to.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 26, 2008 at 1:17 pm


Hang in there. Parents are human, they make mistakes and they say things that they later regret. One of the really difficult lessons some of us have to learn when growing up is how to lovingly detach from our parents--to appreciate what's good about them, but not let them determine what we become as adults.

With this one, it may help to think about why your mother's so set on your being a doctor. That's very much about her, not about you. As a parent, when I see a fellow parent be that insistent about what their kid does, I see a lot of insecurity--i.e. the parent needs your success to feel like she's succeeded as a parent. But that's just my take.

I agree with Understanding Parent--a lot of therapists have sliding scales--I mention this not because you need therapy, but it sounds like an issue of family dynamics. But do talk to people--particularly any adults you trust. Another perspective can really help.

And take care of yourself.

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Posted by Dave
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 26, 2008 at 1:31 pm


Assuming you are telling it straight, your mom should not be insisting on you becomming a doc. However, it IS her money, and she can be an ass, if she wants to.

You are about to reach adulthood (18 years of age), if you have not, already. Why are you so emotionally dependent on your parent? Life is full of possibilities, and it is meant to be enjoyed. I left home at 17, and never looked back. It has been a great adventure. Try it, you might like it!

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Posted by ol' lady
a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2008 at 7:20 am

Cindy, I am a woman who left home at 18. At 17 my parents told me they had spent the money I had always believed was there for my college.

So, I applied to every school, went to the one who gave me the most in grants and loans and work-study, and never looked back.

You will be ok, apply to the schools, know that most schools, if they want you, have grants/scholarships/loans aplenty to get you through, and supplement with work at McDonald's or something.

The end of it is will learn that you can do anything, that you are strong, and be very proud of yourself.

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Posted by Mom with 3
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 6, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Everyone mentions academic stress, not letting kids fail, and mental illness concerning this suicide.

How about just plain lousy parenting?! So many parents are both working and sending their kids to daycare and mainly not paying much attention to their kids these days. Yes, I know of loving/nurturing working parents who have sent their kids to daycare and their kids are fabulous, so it can be done, but many of these daycare kids are only at daycare because both of the parents want to work (not necessarily out of financial necessity). What I ask then, is why do they have children in the first place if they don't want to spend time with them? Those working parents who have great kids are spending time with them on weekends, talking with them about how their days are going, and making their kids feel loved by giving them attention. The first three years of life are so important in nurturing children yet parents send their kids off to daycare at 3 months of age. I'd rather go on welfare than do that.

What many parents don't realize is that when children misbehave it is usually that they are tired of being controlled and want their own say in their lives. Deep down, kids really do care what their parents think, even if the parent has been terrible to them. A book once wrote: "When the child is misbehaving, the best thing to do is give them the positive attention they really desire and tell them you understand their feelings." Children want to feel love from their parents. I'll bet parents who have difficult children can turn things around if they just decide to spend more time with their children rather than fighting with them and telling them they are no good. Just tell them you've realized that they are growing up so fast and you want to get to know them better before they are adults. Take them to dinner, a movie, play video games, talk to them before bed, let the child select things for you two to do. And several times per week, not once a month. In time, the child will come around because the child will feel wanted and loved, which is what they really want even if they don't know it. But here's what throws a wrench in all this: many parents cannot do this because they feel that nurturing is stooping down to their children and the parent is supposed to be the boss in control and the kids will take advantage of them. The parent is still the authority figure.

I have three children ages 12 and under. When they were younger, I let them have their way a lot (but not always), let them choose what they wanted to wear, eat, and bought them a lot of toys and showed them a lot of affection. What is the result? None of them went through Terrible 2's because they felt in control of their lives and didn't need to prove anything. If I am sick, they all feel bad and want to help out. They are not materialistic and if I buy them something, they thank me profusely. Even if it is only an ICEE. If I have opinions, they listen and care what I have to say. They try to please me because I pleased them when they were young.

Basically, what it comes down to, is that in parenting, you get back exactly what you put in. A child cannot be spoiled with too much love. You give them respect and love and they will give it right back to you because they felt it from you. If you are mean to them, they will be mean right back.

Parents should get off their high horses and start respecting their children. There would be less drug problems (escapism) and less depression if parenting was more caring.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2008 at 10:38 pm

Mom of 3

I echo everything you say.

I heard of one family recently where both parents work and where both parents were so stressed out after their hard week at work that they decided to leave the kids with grandparents so that they could have a weekend away on their own. Too many families are like this.

When we hear of attempted suicides, or even kids in trouble, we hear from the parents, "Oh they are only doing it to seek attention". The point is that they are doing it to seek attention and they feel this is the only way to get it.

Please, to all parents, working or not. Give your kids the attention they crave, even if they don't appear to want it.

More ideas, have a family car wash, have a garage sale (and decide how to spend the money together), go for pedicures together, go for a hike with a packed lunch that everyone helps make, have a 3 course meal and everyone does a different course of their own choosing. Not all family events have to centered around entertainment, but they do have to be fun. Get your family working together as well as playing together and make the work fun. Buy the younger kids disposable cameras and let them take whatever pictures they like of your family activities, develop them and put them on the refrigerator.

Give them some memories that they will keep forever and give them some thing more precious than material, like time.

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Posted by Mom of 3
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 7, 2008 at 2:02 pm

After standing on my soapbox, I realized that I forgot to mention that my parents did not show me love which resulted in my wanting to commit suicide at Paly. My self-esteem was so low that I withdrew from my friends because I felt that I was not worth anything. With no friends, low self-esteem, parent who didn't seem to care about me, what was the sense in living? And why would I want to do well in school if I was so miserable? I didn't want to run away because I didn't want to live on the streets. But I did want to commit suicide although I never actually tried. My mom begged me not to. And that is what kept me alive. That someone actually cared.

Parents, please pay attention to your children. Do things with them that they consider fun--even if it is paintballing, videogaming. Don't organize activities which YOU think are fun. Ask them what is fun. Don't compete with your children; allow them to win if they can. Buy them gifts every now and then to keep them stimulated and happy. Get to know your kids. If you don't care for them now, don't expect them to care about you later in life.

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