Posted by Neighbor, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 10:50 am
Oh, no. This is just breaking my heart. My kids are grown, but this is just too close for any parent. Our children bring tears to our eyes no matter who they are or how old they are or what hideous things happen to them. I cannot imagine being a parent and surviving this incredible sorrow. You have my best thoughts that are not nearly adequate. With love.
Posted by Proves to show, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 11:14 am
This just goes to show that a security guard that was supposedly at the crossing, does no help to someone who takes a short jaunt 150 feet away. Waste of money, waste of time. A security guard can literally only observe a minute section of the 77 miles of Caltrain. Suicidal people are going to find their own way out - no security guard will help. Early intervention is key. Look for warning signs.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 11:16 am
The problem is that the only organization currently willing to put up the money for grade separation (millions of dollars) is HSR. No one else can consider the grade separation issue until HSR is settled.
Posted by qq, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 11:16 am
This article is full of errors and ommisions. Southbound Caltrain 196 was emergency stopped 150 yards north of Meadow, this is not where the strike happened. The man's body was just south of creek, 400 yards away from West Meadow. The private security company was on duty at West Meadow, and three Track Watch volunteers were on duty at Charleston. Track Watch Volunteers alerted the PAPD to the Caltrain 196 emergency stop at 11:42PM. It was a terrible late night for all involved.
Posted by Lives-Near-By, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 11:22 am
The article does mention the existence of a "security guard", although the article's author does not seem to have provided any information about the guard's whereabouts, or if the guards were still being paid to guard this crossing.
Having walked by this crossing a number of times, one several occasions the single guard was observed to not be standing (or sitting) next to the tracks. During the cold period in December, they could be seen in the car that they drive to the site, which was parked on Park Avenue, about 125 feet away from the train tracks (but not always in direct sight of the tracks).
Not certain if the guards have been sitting in this car during the recent rainy periods, or not, but it is a little unlikely that they have been standing (or sitting) out by the tracks for hours on end in the downpours.
At any rate, it's clear that paying "guards" to sit/stand at this crossing is not a solution that can keep someone from committing "suicide-by-train", when his/her mind is made up to do so.
It's a real shame that none of these suicides have been investigated by the local press, so that the public might get a sense of what the root cause of these young people's problems might be.
Even if there were an pedestrian underpass, this would not have any deter someone from gaining access to the tracks and throwing themselves in front of an on-coming train.
Posted by Midtown Parent, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 11:22 am
I am sorry but no correction is needed. The one who was schedule, as a graduated from Terman, and she did went to Gunn for the 3 day orientation. She was a Gunn High School student. She was on campus for those 3 days. The orientation happened one week before school started officially for the Freshman started before.
Posted by Student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 11:30 am
This is tragic to hear, but what people in this community fail to recognize is that suicidal people will do anything to find a way out of their pain. One can always try to prevent it but the only way for someone who is dealing with extreme depression is to get him/her out of that mentality; therefore, that person should get help immediately. Only he/she can beat this disease; no one else can do it for him/her. I've had first hand experience dealing with friends who were suicidal and my own personal experience of going through that dark time. I was able to get out of it because I put in the time and effort and was motivated to live a normal life. We need to find a way as a community to stop this problem at the roots instead of using a temporary solution. I do applaud those who have taken their time and effort to help create a safer and better community and those who have volunteered to watch the tracks.
Posted by youturd, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 11:33 am
Hey lives-near-by, you want the press to investigate the kids' personal problems to find a cause? This isn't a tabloid. The press has no right to do that, and it shouldn't get anywhere near doing so either. The parents lost their kids and the last thing they need is the press snooping around into their kid's personal life. What the press needs to do is absolute MINIMAL reporting of suicides, so it doesn't start "inspiring" others.
Posted by Jon, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 11:35 am
What is a rent-a-cop or a volunteer parent supposed to do, if someone insists on being on the tracks? Are they allowed to phycially molest the person, in order to get him/her to move? If all they can do is to call the real cops, it will probably be too late. These well-intentioned people shoould not get anywhere near the tracks when a train is apporaching, or they may become accidental victims.
Posted by another sad day, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 11:53 am
"It's a real shame that none of these suicides have been investigated by the local press, so that the public might get a sense of what the root cause of these young people's problems might be."
I'm sorry but the local press has done more than they need to do to cover the suicides. There is no easy or simple answer for what is happening. Read the multitude of professional papers that have been written about clusters and you will see that it is a mystery to them as well. The press is the last place that we need to "solve" this issue.
Please respect the privacy of the families and friends of these people. Please ask the press to stay away from other teens in their attempt to "cover the story". Everyone is hurting and confused and no one can give you the answer that you are looking for.
The best thing you can do is to stop putting your energy in to blaming others and look at what can be done to help prevent future events. The watches are working but maybe not perfect. What can we do to help that process? How can we help our teens understand that life is not about being great at everything that they attempt? How can we give teens in our community places to be together and enjoy their time as a teen? When will we learn to accept diversity in choices from the teens--choice of school, clothes, jobs,etc. and just celebrate their choices instead of judging their choices? We, as a community, have a lot that we can do to help once we stop blaming.
Over one million people commit suicide every year, making it the tenth-leading cause of death worldwide. It is a leading cause of death among teenagers and adults under 35. There are an estimated 10 to 20 million non-fatal attempted suicides every year worldwide.
From time-to-time there are brief mentions about suicide rates in Santa Clara County (one in ten teens have attempted suicide, per some claims), yet this sort of information rarely makes it into the papers.
Without some sort of investigation (and public release of this information) to see if there are any common threads to these deaths (like a suicide pact), we are left with nothing but speculation about what is going on here, but not in Mountain View or Menlo Park.
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 12:09 pm
I have to agree with the last post, there needs to be an in-depth investigation as to what is going on with these kids that everyone can understand and that is not brushed off or wiped aside. is this a general thing, or something that was intolerable and possible different for each child?
As was mentioned so many people kill themselves it is a leading cause of death, far higher than the number of people we lose in war.
It is the people who run our society that do not want to take the time to understand this.
Maybe starting with where did these children live and what was their socio-economic status?
Posted by sooo sad, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 12:11 pm
My heart goes out to the family of the victim and to the Gunn community regardless of whether this latest death was a Gunn student or not. My prayers are with you all, especially the students and staff.
Posted by Gunn student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 12:21 pm
There have been investigations into why these students have committed suicide but they have not become public. For the kid that I knew who did it, I knew the specific reason but there is no reason why this should become public. Every single person in Palo Alto does not need to know why a certain person chose to do it. I realize everyone is curious but please remember that people that need to know the reasons, do know the reasons, and they are doing a good job of keeping it quiet, because there is no reason why everyone should know.
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 12:29 pm
Gunn student, I don't think it would be a violation of anyone's privacy to put a non-specific statement out that explains why someone commits suicide, especially in this case. When a married couple killed themselves a while ago a little background was given to explain what was going on and why they chose to go out together.
Why is it up to you to decide what people need to know, or what some others get to hide?
People should have a right to be interested, and a right to know that is balanced intellgently with privacy concerns. Exactly whose privacy is being protected though?
Posted by Sad for everyone, a resident of another community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm
This is so terrible for the Caltrain engineers and conductors, as they become collateral victims of the suicides. They have to come out and survey the graphic scene. They are traumatized by these suicides. Nobody should blame Caltrain for these kids' suicides.
Posted by MV-Resident, a resident of Mountain View, on Jan 23, 2010 at 12:42 pm
Based on the reported accident location (150 yards north of the grade crossing at West Meadow), I'm not sure that a security guard could have done anything. Visibility at that distance at night (especially during rain) would be very limited.
Posted by Gunn student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 12:42 pm
I'm just saying that when you say there needs to be an in-depth investigation as to what is going on with these kids, there has been, it just hasn't been released to everyone for the reason as to not put pressure on the families and friends so that people who make harsh strong-opinion comments don't further hurt those involved.
Posted by trackwatch supporter, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 12:47 pm
As qq points out above, the security guard (at Meadow) and Trackwatch members (at Charleston) were on duty, but the death happened quite a ways North of there. So, while access was prevented at those two crossings, the entire corridor is not impermeable, as we always knew.
Having spent several evenings on watch with the dedicated members of Trackwatch, I know that at least two physical attempts have been prevented, and probably more since people know that the tracks are being watched.
Clearly, screening for depression and suicidality will be the best long-term deterrents.
In the meantime, some members of the community are doing whatever they can to keep teens from the tracks, many of them sitting, night after night, in the rain and cold, until the last scheduled train in the early AM. I was at the tracks last night after the incident and watched a group of them searching for clues about how this person gained access and wondering what else they could do.
Better physical barriers, more guards, better lighting? Not all deaths can be prevented, but we know that some already have, thanks to the efforts of these people. They deserve our support and respect.
As for reporting more about the previous victims, I agree that their privacy should be respected. It is amazing to me, however, the extent to which some of their family members have stepped forward to help others in the community to avoid further tragedies. Their courage and strength is tremendous.
Finally, these deaths have taken a dreadful toll on our children and on our community. Please try to avoid blaming and fighting and instead come together to find solutions.
Posted by TC, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 12:56 pm
During the 1970s and 1980s there were a huge number of suicide jumpers off the Golden Gate Bridge, these were copycat suicides. Now, you very rarely hear of anyone jumping of the GG Bridge. What we are seeing on the Caltrain's tracks are copycat suicides.
California has always had a higher number of suicides compared with the rest of the country. I'm sorry for the young man's relatives but paying for guards to watch the train track at West Meadow is a waste of money. If parents want to sit out there and watch the train tracks, that is their choice.
Lastly, I hate to read those blogs blaming Gunn High School for the suicides. Yes, it's very competitive to get into college today but that's not Gunn's fault. They are just preparing students for a very competitive world.
Posted by So Sad, a member of the Egan Middle School (Los Altos) community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 12:58 pm
The article mentions that the patrols and volunteers have averted more than one suicide. While these measures apparently cannot stop all of them, they have stopped some. I think it's wrong to mock or denigrate the things that people are trying to do to save our kids. I hope these efforts continue and thank those who have supported them.
I have heard the details behind the suicides. There is no common thread, no suicide pact, no hidden agenda. These were just kids who felt such pain for various reasons that they decided to take this permanent solution to stop feeling so bad. Several were taking anti-depressants.
I wish they, and any other teen who has considered this, would know that almost everything can be improved, over time. Life can become so happy later. I speak with authority, because I tried to commit suicide as a late teenager. I am now in my mid 40's and am so thankful to have lived to see some wonderful times later in my life. Hold on, because things CAN get better.
Suicide experts suggest that the more publicity we give these events, the more we inspire others to follow. As one very smart poster said, let's stop with blaming and work to do everything we can to support teens. Life is hard these days, even for many adults. As a community the best thing we can do is try to support our teens.
Posted by Watcher, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 1:05 pm
As someone who watches the Charleston crossing regularly I'd like to make a few remarks. The guards and track watchers have prevented a number of known, and we can't count how many unknown suicides, so the effort is worthwhile. No, it isn't perfect. The driver was going too fast to stop the train in time to prevent this fatality.
Last night both crossings were being watched when this happened. It is possible this individual gained access from somewhere further north. We are following up to close any access in that area.
It did not occur at the East Meadow crossing, but several hundred yards north of there.
Suicide among teens is caused by depression and clouded thinking. It is not a mystery that requires prying into anyone's personal life. Much research has been done. Our teens need to be screened by professionals in diagnosing this and then treated until they are out of danger.
Anyone who is concerned may join these efforts, lobbying the school district to welcome professionals who have offered their services for free in helping screen our young people for depression; to change school start times so that teens are less sleep deprived; to limit the number of AP courses a student may take; asking Caltrain to slow their trains in this area to a speed at which the driver has some chance of stopping in time to prevent this; watching the tracks - more eyes means more deterrent. Please, if you have strong feelings about this, get involved.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 1:07 pm
You rarely hear details about Golden Gate Bridge suicides because the news media thinks the hype just encourages more suicides. According to the San Francisco coroner's office, there have been more than 30 suicides per year on the bridge in recent years (much higher numbers than on the Caltrain tracks).
I agree that we need to take a multi-faceted approach to suicide prevention. Mental health education and counseling, for both students and parents, have to be the primary approach. I do think that parent patrols and improved lighting at copycat locations do help as well. Yes, a determined person can find other ways to commit suicide, but most suicide attempts are not that determined.
Posted by Anon, a member of the Duveneck School community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 1:13 pm
Hey TC, just because you dont hear about the GG bridge suicides doesn't mean they aren't still happening. 31 in 2009, 34 in 2008. They don't get reported in the news. These train suicides are sad. Palo Alto is such a beautiful city, it's hard for me to understand why so many kids are wanting to end their lives here. RIP.
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 1:24 pm
It's probably a compulsion or something with me, but would people stop writing RIP please?
If one is sincere and really cares, is it so hard to type out "rest in peace". These endless rip, rip rip ... just sounds really insincere and insulting. This is not a text message, and even if it was "rest in peace" is not too long to type, unless you texting and driving.
R.I.P. was used on poor people's graves or in comic books as a kind of ghastly joke, where there was not enough room to draw or money to engrave or chisel "Rest In Peace". If you walked up to someone at a funeral would you say, I hope this deceased soul RIPs? I am sure some would, but when you think about almost all would not.
Posted by LocalResident, a resident of Mountain View, on Jan 23, 2010 at 1:53 pm
As a resident of this area for about 40 years, and a parent of a high school sophomore and UC sophomore, I'm concerned that "something" is going on. There needs to be more, not less scrutiny by educators and parents into the social atmosphere that may be a factor in these suicides. This sort of depression is a mental health issue! We are all born into this life with roughly the same options for dealing with life's challenges. I care about preventing any more of these events, and I don't think any stone should be left unturned, especially when I hear someone talk about "secret reasons" that no one else should know about. Nonsense! This is our community, and we owe our children as much help and guidance as we can give them. Life is a wondrous gift that must be appreciated and cherished with honesty and acceptance, especially acknowledging the pain that is part of the experience. No one should find this spate of suicides "statistically acceptable".
Posted by One Gunn Mom, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 2:13 pm
Newspapers do not report suicides because they attract "copycat" behavior. The only reason these siucudes are reported is because these happened on public tracks with police response (which becomes public record). The fact that the previous 4 were all Gunn students (and yes, the 13 year old girl was part of the incoming Freshman Class) is tragic.
Most suicides are impulsive--people with depression or other mental illness who act on an opportunity. This location has become a suicide "magnet" with plenty of opportunity and access. Barriers (in this case Track Watch) does help to remove the access to the location and may interrupt the impulse. For more information on suicide magnets, read the New York Times article at:
Posted by Almost teen suicide, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 2:15 pm
As someone who almost chose to end my life as a teenager, I can testify that I don't think it was depression, but it was due to my parents. Educating parents to listen to their kids, not put high expectations on them, like the kids as people, allow the kids to live their own lives not to be extensions of the parents, are a much better idea than trying to identify teen depression.
My parents did all these things and more. My life was miserable because I was not the perfect child they expected me to be.
My school was not helping either. I was not one of the clever ones, just one of the average kids.
I think that if kids have someone to talk to who is not their parent or their teacher it may help. But, it has to be someone who really cares. I found someone like that and it helped me. But, I wish someone could have told my parents to love me the way I was and not criticize me all the time. All the so called counselors talking to me wouldn't have helped me unless my parents changed.
So, I think parents should be educated on how to be parents. Don't tell the kids how to be kids, they usually know.
Posted by Reality Check, a resident of another community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 2:48 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
As for guarding this or that crossing with guards or volunteers ... it's like saying RIP ... it might make some feel better that they're doing SOMETHING ... but the reality is that it's essentially ineffective and pointless in terms of really stopping a person who means to kill themselves. It is quite obvious someone can step out in front of train from a seemingly normal and safe position within a matter of seconds. That being said, those calling for trains to run slower here or there are also unclear on the concept. The suicidal can just go a little further up or down the line where the trains are running fast enough to kill -- which isn't very fast at all, by the way. And for that completely token and ineffective action, you would devastate the Caltrain service and the tens of thousands of people that use it every day and have other options -- like driving and thereby increasing THEIR risk of death or accident, traffic congestion, air pollution, warming, regional congestion, etc.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 2:49 pm
Depression doesn't simply blown in out of nowhere--what you describe is, indeed, conducive to depression--a sense that you can never be good enough or do well enough.
The irony of this kind of hypercritical parenting you describe is that the parents who do it feel inadequate themselves. Their criticism of you is, in many ways, the criticism of themselves. It's incredibly sad.
Take care of yourself. I'm so glad you found support and have had the insight to look at what went wrong.
Posted by diane, a resident of another community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 3:40 pm
My thoughts go out to the young man and his family.
So many comments on this thread proclaim privy insight into the details of why and how this happens... it's so easy to point fingers at parents, or at school officials. The situation, like so many serious problems in society, is much more complex than any one scapegoat can bear. Please stop making the parental survivors responsible, please stop heaping agony onto the bereaved parents of these kids.
Posted by HM, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 3:43 pm
allow respect to the family and friends I mean really if you want to argue about depression and why these things happen do it somewhere else cause I know alot of people dont want to read it. Let death be unexplained because trying to provide explanations only leads to more pain.
Posted by Parents be warned, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 3:58 pm
Finals week was just last week. I agree with Almost's posting that parents play a major role in the depression of children. My parents never talked to me except to insult or criticize or control me. And I was a good kid, never partied, but earned only a few A's. Not that I wasn't capable of earning all A's, but how could a student have the desire to do well academically if the karma in the home is so unhappy? Parents need to praise and appreciate their children and ask themselves why they decided to have children if they don't want to spend time with them? They might as well coach a sports team instead if all they want to do is dictate orders. America is a country of second chances and your kids are not bonsai plants to cut and twist till they are what you want them to be. They need the guidance of parents but need to find their own interests. If they don't get into the college of choice, they can get into the grad school of choice. The expectations for our PAUSD students is for them to perform at college level and they are not yet mature adults in college. All the guidance counselors cannot improve the home life. Some parents are better off divorcing than putting their children through all the conflict.
The BoE is also to blame for the stress in our schools. They need to begin setting rules and not let the workloads get out of hand. But then many of the BoE members have Ivy League degrees so they believe that the students should tough it out like they did. My child is in honors English and math, and the workload in the world language class is more than the workload in the honors classes. Of course, the BoE has given the teachers the approval to make world language classes more intense. Someone told me a BoE member said they want to mandate World Language classes as a core class. Where will it end, BoE? Aren't our schools good enough already?
Posted by End trackwatching, a resident of another community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 3:58 pm
Trackwatching was never a great idea. End it now. Let the trackwatchers delcare victory at allegedly stopping suicides, but it could be argued that the extra attention attracted even more attempts. Sitting out there made them feel good, clearly it didn't do much for this latest fellow.
Posted by Gunn Alum, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 4:06 pm
Why is it that the comment board turns into a forum for misplaced anger and arguments to no end. We can talk and talk all we want and exchange banter back and forth, but honestly at least those track watchers are DOING something.
Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 4:13 pm
Air Bag System to Reduce Railway Pedestrian Fatalities
In the US in 2006, there were 500 fatal collisions between trains and pedestrians. Of these 500, about 360 were suicides. Psychologically speaking, these are “dramatic” suicides where less-dramatic suicide methods would not be substituted. These fatalities are devastating to families and to rail transit personnel. Rail transit systems experiencing frequent fatalities include: Caltrain, Amtrak Capitol Corridor, Washington DC Metrorail, and others. Rail pedestrian fatalities are also an international problem. The UK Rail Safety and Standards Board estimates the total cost of suicides (trackside and at stations) to the UK rail industry in 2003 was more than 11M GBP at 61,000 GBP cost per suicide. This cost includes delay to trains and lost working time as a result of trauma suffered by staff. Each year the UK experiences about 200 rail suicides. In 2008, there were 2,000 rail suicides in Japan. Germany experiences roughly 936 railway suicides per year. Australia has called for improved crashworthiness of trains.
A front-of-train air bag system shows promise in increasing rail safety. When inflated, the air bag system might be 15 feet long and 7 feet high. The system will be able to safely handle a collision between a pedestrian and a 60 mph locomotive, grabbing and holding the pedestrian until the locomotive comes to a stop. Collision physics calculations have been validated for a constant 20g deceleration. Such an air bag system will necessarily have a more complicated design than current in-vehicle automotive air bags. States a Principal Engineer at TRW Automotive: "I believe that this concept is possible. I believe that it would take quite a bit of development due to the volume of the 'bag' and the volatility of the propellants commonly used in air bag systems. We would need to perform a lot of experimentation but I overall I think it can be developed."
A federal research "problem statement" will be submitted for the June 2010 TCRP federal grant funding round.
San Jose Mercury news, Dec 22, 2009. (story ran in sister papers: Contra Costa Times, Bay Area Daily News) Web Link .
Bay Area NBC, Dec 22, 2009. "Cow Catcher 2.0 Proposed for Caltrain," Web Link
The best known suicide location in the world is the Golden Gate Bridge, with over 1,200 known to date. Other notable “suicide bridges" include the George Washington Memorial Bridge in Seattle, the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Saint Petersberg, the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge in Santa Barbara County, the Van Stadens Bridge, near Port Elizabeth in South Africa, the Bloor Street viaduct in Toronto (500 people), and the Hornsey Lane Bridge in London. The Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building were also very well known as suicide magnets prior to specific mechanical barriers being put in place. In Japan, there is the “Aokigahara hanging forest” bordering Mt. Fuji, which averages about 80 per year.
Posted by DontPushKids, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 5:17 pm
I agree with Almost teen suicide's comments. I have 2 things to add:
1. Suicide, in its entirety, is an unstoppable crime. Suicides will continue to happen world-wide (unless you want to think science fiction). However, the thing we CAN stop is "copycat" behaviour like Golden Gate. Better lighting and slowing trains may be good options may be good deterrants but too much media exposure and heavy track monitoring actually provides a 'challenge' for a suicider, who has zero self-confidence and is willing to 'prove' something. Think of suicide bombers...
2. Going back to Almost's point, every teen wants love, attention & wants to be heard. If they are (unfortunately) not getting that from their parents or teachers, then they CAN STILL get it from the community, neighbors, or friends at schools, instead of counsellors.
So, I urge everyone in the community to embrace a teen, LISTEN to them and spread love & happiness. To let them know everything's all right. Pass on a smile.
This may sound crazy but small positive actions and saying more of "its ok" comments, rather 'be the best' comments, will deter stress. I hope all parents are listening...
Posted by movedtospeak, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 5:17 pm
I had no connection to the passed suicides, so I went on making whatever assumptions I pleased. About this particular incident, I have intimate knowledge.
Let me say this, give the family and friends space. Based on my intimate knowledge of the situation I would like to share my belief. There were issues that ran far deeper than Gunn High School or the proximity to Caltrain tracks.
Outsiders have no idea as to the detailed inner workings behind these deaths. Previously, I was one of the arrogant. I made careless assumptions about what had come to pass, and prescribed solutions with casual certainty. Let me tell you, there are so many variables, all of which interact in a manner far too complex for some smug commenter to interpret into a succinct thesis on the paloaloonline comment forum. In the past I would dismiss the comments such as the one I am making, snickering as I thought of them as too weak or close to the situation to make the necessary and difficult observations. I was wrong. There is too much unique to every individual life. Suicide is not a equation waiting to be broken down, so please hear the appeal of one of those who couldn't have followed his own advice: Stop, just stop.
Posted by NEWSFLASH, a resident of the Greater Miranda neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 6:30 pm
Once the news gets out, you're not stopping it. What's shutting down one measly blog article in a community newspaper website going to do in the face of thousands of facebook statuses, dozens of mainstream news corporations, and rumors spreading like wildfire?
You can't keep it quiet from the source, because hundreds of people will have heard the loud train whistles, and seen a trainstop followed by police activity.
Posted by 11th student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 6:49 pm
It's not just this board that there's talk about suicide. At school it's everywhere. There are mandatory assemblies that deal with it; we walk into the main office and there are flyers; walk into the guidance office and its everywhere, even on their website students go looking for college info and half the page is about crisis. even the library has books displayed right in front about suicide and depression. if the school wants to make students feel less depressed stop making the school so depressing cuz its hard for students to get through the day without being reminded about the tragic events. how about the school putting extra effort in promoting school spirit! about the accomplishments its students have done, having happy a happy staff. the SAC and the AC are the only places that someone can go to relax without depressing rhetoric surrounding them. you know, students aren't dumb. we know where to go for info, we are in the information age here. and even the resources they list on the websites at the school there are better ones out there. we cope with the stresses of high school life by talking and chatting with one another, about the teachers who stress us out and the teachers/staff that make us laugh and talk to us like actual people with thoughts and opinions that matter. I think its the parents and adults that really need the most help in the community in dealing with the tragic events--not the students
Posted by Sharon, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 6:53 pm
If Palo Alto Weekly is not willing to follow the WHO and CDC expert testimony and standards about allowing these sorts of forums then you may well face a much bigger problem that the egg throwing at Paly and related threats of litigation from Paly parents
We suggest you retain a qualified Stanford psychiatrist to moderate these discussions.
The right of free speech does not apply to shouting fire in a theater and causing panic and death.
Many people pointed this out during the previous suicides by Gunn students.
Follow the CDC and WHO standards in this matter, malpractice is a serious matter for all involved
Posted by Mr. Fischer, a resident of Menlo Park, on Jan 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm
I pray that we as a people, "We",... sharpen up our awareness,..and get emotionally envolved in the conciousness of our youth. And quit blaming the efforts made thus far,...I honestly believe it'll take a little longer to get to bottom of this regretful plan of action in the mind of the kids. "I pray for the families who have lost love-ones due to these tragedies".
Posted by neighbor, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2010 at 8:02 pm
My heart goes out to the family and friends of this young man. Please be mindful of posts and their potential impact on those who loved him. Perhaps it would be a positive thing to focus on remembrances and condolences at this early stage of loss.
Posted by Teacher, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 11:30 pm
I remember Brian as being a strong, fearless young man who carried himself with impressive confidence. He was liked. He had friends. He was smart and talented. Most would never expect his life to end in such a way, but it did. As with the other four untimely deaths, I am saddened. Angry. Confused.
Though we can assume much about who is sad, we cannot do the same for those we think are NOT sad. Brian was tough. A lot of our kids are tough. Who else could be disguising a sadness so profound, that they physically cannot stop themselves from plunging their family and closest friends into permanent grief? It's a question that weighs heavily.
If you are sad, please know this: Mental illness does not make you a bad person. It's treatable. Empathetic conversations and medicine, diet and day-to-day decisions... a lot can be done to make each day better than the next. This will pass. Please do not lose hope.
Posted by parent, a resident of Stanford, on Jan 24, 2010 at 12:56 am
Track watchers are indeed heros to be soluted. Monitoring the tracks as well as we can cannot stop every suicide, but it can stop some. It has already saved lives. This incidence is very upsetting, but it does not change this fact and the clear evidence on this matter.
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 24, 2010 at 1:20 am
"Almost", I hear your post even though I am reading it late. I went to Paly decades ago, and you have good insight and a strong understanding, and that helps. Some people do not, and some parents, and face it, no matter what people want to hear or listen to, it often is parent behavior that casts a depressive hopeless shadow over children's lives. Parents have the kind of influence on their children they rarely understand until many years after they are grown up and well into life.
Teachers and friends come and go but parents are permanent, and some have no idea what they are doing. I'm saying this not to blame, but to try to point out that thoughtfulness and consideration goes a long way. Our modern way of life distracts and pushes people into an automatic way of life. My parents when they looked back many years too late somewhat see the damage they did, but their upbringing society's expectations make is almost impossible to even go near this whole subject let along sort anything out meaningfully. It's a subject that is the next barrier to the advancement of the United States as I see it.
That may sound dramatic, but are we going to continue the misguided factory method of producing people to meet the needs of people who can only see the machines they own, or are we going to start to realize we can build a nation of individuals who each have strengths and weaknesses to contribute. What if this is not mental illness but a logical reaction to what can seem to young people like an insane society. Tell me that on multiple dimensions mass human behavior on this planet makes any sense?
The pathetic talk about mental health and psychologist is just as superficial as saying R.I.P. as a pretense of expressing sympathy. There is no place for people in this world who do not want to devote the full power of their being to making money by any means, and even if they do survive they are forever ranked lower than what amounts to what are virtual criminals that take up the highest places in our civilization. Not to mention that proprietary skill is hardly touched on in school.
Posted by M, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 24, 2010 at 2:14 am
This is very tragic. But I've believed this from the beginning, that security guard or not, if someone wants to take their own life badly enough, they will succeed. The security guard and other volunteers at the tracks can't see 150 yards down the line at night, especially after a train has just passed their post.
Posted by Gunn Student, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 24, 2010 at 3:15 am
Also, the "The deaths have prompted an intense response from Gunn High School,"- maybe from the community, but less from the staff. They are obviously approaching this the wrong way by not allowing us to discuss it. Every suicide, we have not been allowed to talk about it in class, or mention it, and are asked to go to the counselor immediately. The 'help' they offer is outside of school and relatively hard to reach. Furthermore, the counselors don't even know our names, despite having them for years. When applying to another school, they spelled my name completely different all over the forms. To expect us to go talk to them is ridiculous. I can understand them trying to keep it hush hush to avoid 'glorifying' it, but that is obviously not working. Thank goodness we have a strong, supportive student body. Also, I think we can all agree this is the worst possible timing for the "God Hates Fags" Fred Phelps protest group to come picket Gunn. I sniff another possible chain reaction.
Posted by grew up in P.A. years ago, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jan 24, 2010 at 8:08 am
This was posted in the Mercury News online; "The medical examiner won't determine the cause of Taylor's death until at least Monday, but Taylor's mother, Marian, said she believes he committed suicide. Taylor had been diagnosed with and was being treated for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. "We are so sad at the passing of our son," Taylor's mother wrote in an e-mail message to the Mercury News, "but we are grateful for our faith in a loving God and we treasure every moment of the almost 20 years we had with him."
This information helps one understand a little why this suicide happened AND how we need to help those with bipolar and depression; especially our youth who struggle with just being teenagers. My heart goes out to his family and to the struggle he must've had.
Posted by Bob, a resident of Woodside, on Jan 24, 2010 at 9:56 am
There were about 4-5 Palo Alto teen suicides between 1986-1990. I haven't kept track since then, but it seems like this is a normal and accepted rate for the community. Although past suicides did not make the news, as few involved public acts.
Having grown up in Palo Alto I can tell the parents and school administers that something is definitely wrong with the social structure of your community. I talked to a recent Paly grad who is exceptionally bright, personable, a gifted athlete and artist, who stated he never made a friend in his four years there. All his friends were from outside the community. This was a normal American kid, not a monster.
I'm not going to suggest how to solve your community problems, but I will pinpoint that you have a problem and I don't think you are on the right track to fix it. No pun intended.
Posted by Anon, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 24, 2010 at 11:27 am
We are all saddened to hear about Brian, someone that many of us were acquainted with. I was unaware that he was battling against mental illness. Please be supportive of all families dealing with these issues. Please be aware that starting in the 1950's, there has been a revolution in the understanding of mental illness, and, "biochemistry" is now considered the most significant factor. Rather than placing blame on Gunn or "the community", I urge anyone who reads this to study the issue of mental illness in greater depth.
Posted by Former Gunn Student, a resident of another community, on Jan 24, 2010 at 11:28 am
When I was at Gunn several years ago, there were definitely people out there that were cruel and mean. In fact, I ran into some of my former classmates recently and some of them have not changed one bit. I realize that many high schools have this problem but I think it was harder at Gunn because many of the students were spoiled kids from wealthy families, and there was an extremely competitive environment.
I also dealt with bouts of depression when I was in college and let me tell you that nobody cared or understood. I can understand how difficult it is to deal with mental illness. All of my friends abandoned me. People don't want to be around you when you are sad or hurting. Young people would rather go out and have a good time and be around fun people. I am surprised that I didn't end up doing something really bad with my life, given how I was treated and how alone I felt. It is the most awful feeling to feel alone.
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 24, 2010 at 11:38 am
> I talked to a recent Paly grad who is exceptionally bright, personable, a gifted
> athlete and artist, who stated he never made a friend in his four years there.
> All his friends were from outside the community.
I agree with Bob - not only that but it goes back a long way. We moved to Palo Alto a long time ago from a large city in the Midwest. Where we moved from everyone knew each other on the block and socialized. The children played together, and the adults got together as well. This was not Mayberry, it was a normal middle class suburb with no gates special patrols.
We moved to CA and never saw or met most of the people on our block except our immediate neighbors. Drugs were in the schools from a very early grade level.
Now many years later, most of the people I still know from where I came from are married and have children, almost no divorce. They seem much happier are more normal than most of the people I knew and grew up with here in Palo Alto, and most of them live close to where they grew up, where most former Palo Altans move away.
I'm not a social scientist so I cannot explain the difference, there are multiple dimensions of life, experience and society, but the reality is that the social fabric is very different in CA, and this included the East coast where I have also lived We hear a lot about how great, liberal, open-minded, advanced CA is but maybe CA just has more hype and unreality?
Posted by parent, a member of the JLS Middle School community, on Jan 24, 2010 at 11:47 am
It makes me feel so sad another life we loose. I am starting to wonder if these series of suicides are related to inaccessibility to Health Resources. Teens hear us talking about the rocket prices of health services, Insurances targetting pre-existing conditions or astronomic premiums. A pitty that our country with the best hospitals and technology in the world, cannot put energy into getting a Universal Health Insurance. I hope to see the day were none of us has to feel worried for becoming sick and ruin our families. These suicides could be prevented with help from a psychiatrist or a good psychologist who diagnosed the symptoms. I know we have resources at schools to help, but these- the human beings who are already death- needed deeper help. Do our teens have this option available? It is that they are feeling both mentally and economically overwhelmed? Many things have to change in the US, and the first is affordable access for everybody to health.
Posted by Almost a teen suicide., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 24, 2010 at 1:43 pm
I said what I posted to give me point of view but not to put blame on any particular parents. I don't want to offend or upset family members, but I don't expect them to read these blogs. The people who will read these blogs are probably those trying to understand and my experience can show why it may happen to some.
If anyone wants to send messages to the family a site like RIP.ie (which is an Irish site but I think RIP.com is coming) is the type of site where a family can expect to read sympathetic condolences.
Posted by I-care, a resident of another community, on Jan 24, 2010 at 5:24 pm
I think there should be more awareness of the effects these suicides have on Caltrain conductors and emergency response personnel. Maybe then, people will see the devasting, lifelong impact that such a choice has on the lives of other people. I understand that a person in a state of extreme depression may be so focused on their own misery not to care, but I also think that some of them may reflect on the entire scope of the consequences if they were given more information. Sorry to sound naive, but I think compassion exists inside most people, and such compassion for others could make some people resist the impulse to go to these tracks. My heart goes out to the conductors, police and emergency response workers.
Posted by Omar, a resident of another community, on Jan 25, 2010 at 8:17 am
What a shame, again. It long past time to stop or reduce these suicide and accidental tragedies of humans--and animals, too (...a dog was hit by a train, found barely alive about two days later, next to the tracks) while modernizing this transit route into the late 20th century mode -- BART. BART should replace this Caltrain "The Killtrain". BART is electric, non-pollluting, alrady underground and interconnected in SF and soon in SJ. It is integrated, reducing transfers. It's farebox recovery is higher than the outmoded and dangerous Caltrain-Killtrain, doesn't congest or cause pollution from cross traffice because it will be completely grade separated. With BART, the residue will be a 53-mile long SAFE, walking, hiking, biking trail. This will take years, but voters over and over again in much of the peninsula have voted for transit tax increases, including SCC for BART to extend to SJ. The sooner we start terminating the Caltrain Killtrain, the sooner BART can connect end-to-end and stop these tragic, suicide-tempting and accidental deaths (and other negative community effects). Tell the Palo Alto City Council to get started! HSR can use Altamont. It is a better route anyway for future growth planning. I work in Palo Alto and often drive on Alma next to the Killtrain tracks.
Posted by Saddened, a resident of Menlo Park, on Jan 25, 2010 at 11:13 am
As someone who recently lost a close family member due to bipolar disorder, I would like to put out a call to arms for the community. We can try to make difference by helping children get diagnosed earlier, treated with therapies and keep their disease from blossoming in their late teens and early 20s. Bipolar disorder is, unfortunately, an all too common problem today. Please don't judge, but instead be proactive and help. I recommend donating to a charity that funds research in the early diagnosis and treatment of the disease so that we can try to help these wonderful minds flourish and thrive in our society. Many of today's great artists suffer from the disease. I hope we can do more to help keep these amazing people in our midst.
Posted by DontJudge, a resident of another community, on Jan 25, 2010 at 11:48 am
> Look, I don't think what happened here had anything to do with Gunn.
> I salute the bravery of the Taylor family in letting us know that
> Brian Taylor was mentally ill.
I think this comment betrays an awfully insensitive attitude towards mental illness. The victim's mental illness somehow absolves the community and the school environment from any responsibility, and we can go on our merry way without further concern. The victim was one of "them" not one of "us". Phew.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Mental illness is more common than people realize, and environmental factors present in the community factor deeply into its development. Maybe the situation is not quite as simple as we would like to think just so we can retreat to the comfort of our business-as-usual bubble.
Posted by Jimmy Noh, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2010 at 11:55 am
The most important thing in stopping teen suicide is
CLOSE PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT, not manning a railway crossing!!!!!!!
Many kids in our community have had their upbringing completely outsourced to nannies and series of care givers. The parents are only there to drive the kids forward with unrealistic academic expectations.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR KIDS. TAKE A EASIER JOB. DONT SPEND 12 HOURS a day working, or make sure your spouse (of either gender) doesnt either!
Posted by Sam, a resident of Los Altos, on Jan 25, 2010 at 12:13 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
We are all human beings and have similar emotions, albeit on a spectrum which is different for every person. Almost all of us have been sad, depressed, and many have entertained suicidal thoughts. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
These students experienced the same emotions that are NORMAL under the extreme pressures they were most likely experiencing.
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2010 at 6:03 pm
I agree with some of the criticisms of the administrator for removing posts. There are some posts that obviously need to be removed that add nothing, but there is surely too much deletion going on, including one of mine on this board that I cannot imagine any reason it needed to be removed or would offend anyone.
The administrator is not being very thoughtful or competent in the exercise of his power over the free speech rights of others. Though I am glad Palo Alto Online offers this forum and would not really want to see an unmoderated forum, considering that most of us know what that looks like from other forums in the Internet, sometimes this is really way too much and truly irritating.
There needs to be some ability to review the actions of the moderator, or somewhere to complain. Every time I post I have to mail the page to myself to even remember what it was that I wrote at any given time, and I have tried to be nothing but concerned, sympathetic and productive on this sad subject.
Posted by Eric Stietzel, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2010 at 6:48 pm
Jim, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 23, 2010 at 10:59 am, said,"Can we please stop bickering about high speed rail and at least get Meadow grade separated?"
1. The issue of high speed rail is not a matter of bickering; there is serious concern in the State Legislature about the wisdom of the plan. Besides, HSR discussions aren't preventing action on Palo Alto suicides.
2. What difference would grade separation at Meadow make? This latest suicide took place hundreds of yards from the intersection.
3. If you want a quick stop to suicides and accidents at Meadow, just close the intersection and run a fence across the street. Then suicides will just happen elsewhere.
We've lived just off Charleston since 1970. It is only recently that there have been suicides. The problem is not a physical one; it is psychological. Finding out why our youth are suicidal and doing something about it is the only solution. I've got ideas, but since my knowledge of psychology is rather limited, they're of little use and certainly not likely to be novel. As Ludwig Wittgenstein said, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent."
Posted by REST IN PEACE, JIM, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 25, 2010 at 6:52 pm
My nephew was diagnosed the year he graduated from Paly with schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia disease hits young adults and removes the pleasure of living a full life for them.
One summer afternoon, he finally had an outburst that scared his parents andthe police were called. They had him committed to Valley Medical Hospital at first for observation. Then he was placed into a "half way" house in San Jose. He was gang raped at the house. He was moved again and not long after that was diagnosed with Aids. He deteriorated and died of Aids in the Santa Clara County Valley Medical Hospital from it, alone and bedridden at the last stage.
That was in late 1980 before the drugs we have today for Aids was avaiable. What a horrible death he had, if he was not put into the psych ward then, I am sure he would have been one fatalitality for Cal Train.
Mental illness is horrible, no matter what the age.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2010 at 7:04 pm
The editors/moderators of the forum are in a bit of a bind here. On one hand, information does get passed around here and this is a natural place for discussion. On the other hand, there are various guidelines that I think the Weekly is trying to follow in an attempt to prevent further suicides.
REST IN PEACE,
My sympathies regarding your nephew. I also have a schizophrenic relative--diagnosed in college. Fortunately, he's always had family with whom he could stay, but very, very tough.
Posted by Observer, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2010 at 8:33 pm
One thing I've come to realize through all of this is the lack of certainty we all have when it comes to the treatment of emotional illnesses. How much care is enough? When is someone out of danger? How do you know when medications are working? How do you know someone is taking them? What makes someone qualified to diagnose and successfully treat this kind of thing? All these questions have open ended answers. There is no degree or permit that guarantees that any professional can successfully see someone through bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, a suicidal episode. When someone you know has any of these, the best you can do is get opinions from several professionals, follow up and hope for the best. This is an area where we could use a better system to guide those in need. As it is, students often mistakenly believe they should go to a school guidance counselor for emotional problems, when often these are only career counselors with little training in screening or helping with such things.
Posted by alex, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2010 at 11:57 pm
Ok, 11:50pm Monday, rode my bike by the "security guard", who was in his car and in the bike lane. Yelled at him, of course, and he might have moved. I don't know. Anyway, keep these people out of the bike lanes. BTW: Meadow and Alma.
Posted by Mentally ill Adult with Palo Alto HS Diploma, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 26, 2010 at 5:53 pm
Palo Alto is where I was educated before college and establishing myself in my career. My family still lives here as did their parents. It took me a long time through ALL of my accomplishments to find balance with my ambition and achievements. My family and 12 step programs helped me. My suicide attempt at 13 failed while at JLS(Wilbur)and went unnoticed. The response that helped me was from my high school counselors, concerned teacher, friends who stopped to let me know that they cared and saw I was having a rough time - people stepped up to me and to my parents. After that it was up to me. My heart is broken over Brian. His family and extended family are wonderful and were to me when things were "dark" as a teen. He made a permanent choice. "Balancing" to meet he day with a mental illness changes every day when your body is still changing as a teen and young adult. Brian lost his balance the other day and he will deeply and sorely missed. ~ I am very proud to be from Palo Alto, and Gunn Is an incredible school, and every teen has to find their own balance, no matter their brain chemistry. If nothing esle, let's continue to be an incredible and balanced community and directly support if not implement a teen culture that values this above AP and SAT scores. BUILD IT INTO THEIR DAY - and if they need a grade for it then give them one. - any one remember Mr. Andeson's "Family Life" class? I took it as a teen and I guest spoke there as an adult. I think I got an A.
Posted by failed suicide attempt; w meadow resident, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 27, 2010 at 7:16 pm
As a human that has suffered depression to the point of suicide attempts, I feel incredibly grateful that I didn't choose train tracks. I was able to be saved by medicine- which delay incidently allowed me to overcome the tenacious grip of self-destruction. I can't speak for others, but can surmise that any methodology of suicide will be chosen regardless - but any delay or interuption would benefit! However, how can the public man a span of train tracks so extensive? The current solution has failed - sadly, with great pain and trauma to those who were present or participated in the effort. The messages prevalent after each suicide has been an outpouring of care and fear. While very sensitive to the feelings of a disturbed person - is there another message that may be more effective? Perhaps very serious laws against hanging around the tracks, or suicide attempts in general. Going to a 72 hour hold is like a punishment anyway!
Posted by Dennis Mashevsky, a member of the Terman Middle School community, on Jan 27, 2010 at 7:20 pm
I see all these opinions and views and everything and I'm glad people are really thinking about it. This is horrible, I put my heart out to everyone who commit suicide and everyone who is thinking about it. I'm a 13 year old in 8th grade. This is honestly scaring me very very much. I'm going to Gunn. At this rate if more suicides happen chances are I might end up knowing one of them pretty well, they could even be my friend. I don't know if I could handle that.. And at the same time I don't want to be thinking about myself when these horrible suicides are happening.
Posted by resident, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jan 27, 2010 at 11:48 pm
failed suicide attempt,
It's good to hear you have gotten help that is working, and I like your idea of stricter laws of hanging around the tracks, something more to deter anyone from going there.
If the idea of being caught and getting in trouble for going to the tracks could play a part in changing the course of events for anyone, it's worth considering - along with cameras and more light and continued guards