Suicide attempt averted by a mother and motorist Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:25 pm
An attempt by a young man to commit suicide on the train tracks in Palo Alto was averted Thursday evening by a mother who took her son's words seriously aided by a passing motorist, police Agent Dan Ryan reported.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, June 4, 2009, 9:47 PM
Posted by anonymous, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:39 pm
This is getting ridiculous. People need to keep a closer eye on their friends/anyone they know. It's like all of a sudden it's okay to do this.
We need to be closer together as a community. Especially since finals are coming up next week. If anyone has asked you for any kind of help (even if it's for something stupid), just help them out. There may be a side of the story that they just don't want to tell you about. It doesn't take that much effort to at least care.
Posted by Student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:41 pm
I have had many issues with Suicide this year. I want others who feel this was they are not alone. I wanted my world to end. I was so miserable. My life felt hopeless. One day I decided I would attempt. I decided to tell my best friend. Of course, she came to my aid before anything happened and she drove me to the hospital. I got help. I want people to know there IS HELP. I know first hand there is help. Thanks to many caring people, friends and doctors I have gotten help. I now know there is a reason to live. I still have my struggles, life is still a challenge but with help, I am ok. Please, if you have any thoughts, tell someone. Please. Its so hard to see my friends, my classmates, end there lives. We need to join together. I want others to know there is help. Life is worth living, its just hard to see that sometimes.
Posted by Been There, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:45 pm
The book, The Tipping Point, mentions how one incident can set off copy cat events. This is similar to one of the examples given in the book, about a "romantic" notion of suicide that appeal to teens, especially lovelorn ones, though there are many "reasons" one would choose suicide.
The determined ones will follow through in some form or another, but the copy cats from here on out at this same location aren't doing it necessarily out of depression. It's an odd form of attention getting - a one way ticket for a brief moment of attention.
Watching over each other is one of the best actions we can take right now to reduce the chance of another death.
As stated before, "Death - a permanent solution to a temporary problem."
Thank goodness someone was listening and took action this time!
Posted by student, a member of the Duveneck School community, on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:46 pm
this is not the palo alto police departments fault. this is SCHOOL's fault. see the pattern? these people are STUDENTS.
sure these kids may have had issues outside of school but i'd be willing to bet that school was just one more added pressure. college just one more added stress. FINALS could be the last straw. it's the fact that we can't take it anymore and we're trying to share that.
there are people in this world and especially in this community who can control the stress and pressure and competitive nature of our schools, especially the highschools, so why not fix it? and by fix i mean lower the stress, lower the expectations, lower the goals, fix us.
Posted by Joe, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:49 pm
I guess this is a terrible price you pay for driving your kids so hard and this little society that has such an emphasis and academic success. We look to our neighbors in the East and see the violence occuring there, and then we look to the members of our own city and see kids dying here. It really puts things in perspective, what is success and does it bring happiness?
Posted by Been There, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:55 pm
For those who are fretting, in despair or are scared - be proactive, be brave, and be a friend to someone. Take the concern outside of yourself - there are others who may need someone's shoulder to lean against, and your's might be the right one at the right time. Be strong. It builds character.
Be a leader, a support rather than seeing yourself as a victim, a worried bystander. Get outside of your shell if you're a quiet concerned person. Students, you have a lot more clout and power than you may realize. Be brave and reach out to those around you, talk about what you think, take time to listen to what others think and feel. It's amazing how one moment can change another person's perspective.
I would rather regret having reached out and offended somebody than regret just standing by, and then hearing about something that could have been averted.
Nothing can be prevented if nothing was done. Better something done than nothing. Do the best you can - at least you stepped up and tried.
Posted by anonymous, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:55 pm
Suicide is not selfish. I absolutely hate it when people say that. Being selfish is trying to benefit and further yourself without thinking about others. These kids never go into this thinking that they want to hurt everyone around them--they do it because they want to stop the pain that is constantly there for them. We say "just get help, its that easy!" but it's easy for us to think that because we don't understand the state of mind they are in. For them, help does not exist because they are alone in the world.
Adolescent counseling services can only do so much, but I guarantee that if you just observe carefully and extend a helping hand to those who you even have the slightest notion of needing it, it could save someone's life just as well as going to counseling could. We need to stop looking at stereotypes, shunning people because they are "weird" or "different" and start understanding that only the human race created these problems and only the human race can help eliminate them.
Posted by Paly Student, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:56 pm
If police are stationed at the railroad crossings, anyone determined enough will just find another point to get to the tracks, unfortunately. That would not be a sound solution and would just waste resources.
But yes, something must certainly be done. More discussions like the forum held tonight should be held. Palo Alto absolutely has a suicide problem. Not only have the mentioned students committed suicide in the past months and years, but a number of alumni have done the same recently as well. It's truly tragic.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:56 pm
Oh, the rate start skyrocketing about 15-20 years ago, then leveled off (drugs), then started climbing again. That's the national stat on youth suicide. It's high here--since it's a rare phenomenon the rate gets bumped up in this kind of situation.
Posted by gunnstudent, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:59 pm
This is just so sad...
I agree, we as students should watch out to make sure this doesn't happen again. Can we organize people to watch out?
I also can't say that this is the school's fault. A lot of the pressure we feel at school comes from our peers, families and our own expectations, not the teachers or schools. Also, this is not a unique problem to Gunn. The solution is us coming together as a community and helping each other realize what a loss and waste suicide is.
Posted by Erica Anderson, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:01 pm
This isn't just a matter of stress its also a matter of acceptance, parents accepting their children for who they are. Parents hold a strong emphasis on a teens life and if parents don't accept their child for their identity they make then that pressure could be enough for them to commit suicide. Parents be aware of the way you talk to your child and how it effects your child's lifestyle. There isn't two suicides in one month for no reason, we have to really dig deep to figure out why our loved ones feel so alone/depressed they want to take their lives.
Posted by Again, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:01 pm
This isn't happening in MP, MV, LA, EPA, Cupertino, etc. You all are in a pressure cooker and need to figure this out, fast. It was bad when I was in school in PA, and since that time, more than half a dozen students have killed themselves. You plastic Palo Alto bubble is popping and it's messy, heartbreaking, tragic, but preventable.
Posted by RR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:04 pm
No amount of efforts by police, teachers and others watching the crossing will prevent suicides. In my opinion, what can make a lasting positive effect is simply lending our ears and just listen to the downpour of kids' (and adults) sob stories. The pressure induced by peer pressure, self driven drive to succeed, get just not any admission, but in a prestigious schools, pressure to live a life of what parents could not do but want their kids to do, etc., etc., is just too much to bear. Adults who are around kids (their own and others) should try to convey that being average at times is not bad. Getting admission in a community college is perfectly ok even if their friends go to Ivy league, etc., They should continue to reinforce compassion, provide unconditional love, give guidance, lend their shoulder, share laughs, show genuine concerns when the kids are going through tough times, etc., will give the young kids, a new hope in life. They will feel that it is fine to be normal (need not be super humanbeing). Adults (parents and extended families) should try teir best not to compare others with their kids and see them as unique and precious. // For help, please call the below (I hope most of the numbers are still active):
Posted by Momusedtobeyoung, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:05 pm
One of our classmates was trying to run away and left a note at school about twenty years ago when I was in high school. The whole class went out to search for him the whole night. We were so lucky to find him the next day morning and he was still alive. When thought back, all of us really feel so lucky we found him or we could be really painful for our rest of life.
So students, please be brave and live for all the people around you!!! If you dare to die why don't you dare to live!! Young people in high school time are so sensitive. That could be the beauty also could be the weakness. But remember don't harm yourself and all the loves ones around you!!!!!! Please cry out and have a nap when you feel sad, the next day will be another beautiful day.
Parents should organize together and help those poor kids!!!
Posted by anonymous, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:05 pm
No one knows the cause, but blaming the school is DEFINITELY the wrong route to go. Also, people say it's the stress of college apps and grades--why NOW, when decisions have come in and graduation is around the corner? Nothing makes sense.
Posted by human being, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:06 pm
Those who look to blame someone or something can put themselves in line first - where were you? There is no one to blame but ourselves.
It's not the schools, society, police, trains, bridges, communities. It's individuals that needed other individuals at a certain time. ANYbody would do when one is so down and can't see up.
On the flip side: We each take responsibility for your own life - each of us has choices we can make - even if a parent, teacher, police officer, authority figure is breathing down our necks. We can choose what we want to do in our life. No one can put us down if we choose not to let that affect us. Yes, it's hard to ignore sometimes, but once we let someone choose for us, we then have a choice about what we can do about that. Lose our freedom to choose, or take it back.
Life is all about choices, and taking responsibility for the ones we make. There's no one else to blame ...
Posted by Pressure, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:11 pm
I agree with those who say that parental, school, and societal pressure to "succeed" deserves some of the blame for those suicides.
And I dare say that the very Palo Alto paper that reports here on the suicides only adds to the pressure.
Witness the obituary for the latest successful suicide. It says something like: "She had so much going on for herself, how can we explain her suicide?", and goes on to list a very long list of hobbies and activities worthy of an Ivy League bound student. Then it totally unncessarily adds that her brother went to Stanford of all places, etc.
Well, the question is: Would they find it perfectly logical if the suicide was by a high school student who has only one or two activities outside of school classes, who is going to go to San Jose State for college, and whose brother went to Foothills college?
Shame on you Palo Alto Weekly for writing an obituary that only adds to the ridiculous all around pressure that our kids are subjected to every day in this town.
Posted by Student, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:11 pm
This is extremely heart breaking. Rather than thinking of the despondent things in life; people should try to be more jovial and experience life in a different way. even if that means not being what everyone wants you to be.
Posted by Saddened, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:12 pm
Let us note here that it wasn't professional counseling services or the police that saved this student, but a mother and a stranger. It is important to seek professional help, but let us realize that we can also help each other. Never forget that.
Posted by Make a Promise, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:14 pm
Teens and Parents: Beyond just talking to each other, make a mutual promise: That no matter how bad things get, you will NOT kill yourself. Look in each other's eyes when you say it and MEAN IT. And take it upon yourself to make a mutual pledge with at least 5 people this week. It DOES make a difference.
Posted by GunnStudent, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:18 pm
This is so ridiculous. How can we focus on finals with all of this going on around us. I can't even believe this has happened again, or almost happened. I can't concentrate on anything. Gunn really needs to get together and stop this. As students we need to work together and stay strong. This is absolutely nauseating and terrifying. I can't even believe it.
Posted by Anonymous, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:20 pm
GUNN, please cut out some of the newest class offerings: engineering for freshman, model UN for Juniors and whatever else you need to and develop a true guidance department where students can actually have an adult to speak to-- not about college, not added pressure-- but a sounding board. Teachers do not have time, college counselors do not have time and many times the administration is not approachable. Even if the problems and sadness and stress that the students are feeling are not severe enough for most to take desperate action, be there for the students before it escalates-- grief counseling serves an important role,-- but what about counseling to prevent the grief--
Posted by saddened&confused, a resident of Menlo Park, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:20 pm
i am soo saddened by these suicides because the teens lost are my age, 17. Us 17 year olds are about to embark on another chapter of our lives called college, but these kids will never be able to live in a dorm, meet a college professor, get their B.A., masters, PhD... why would you kill yourself after doing SO MUCH over the past 1-2 years?
All of that work and pain and joy for nothing. Honestly, its terrible... terribly sad...
Posted by Fade..., a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:28 pm
Once you get in, its a struggle to get out. Some make it, some don't. Escape anyway possible, desperation, broken down. You people say that help is everywhere why didn't they get it? No one understands but those already trapped. We can only hope to save ourselves. Some make it, some don't. School work isn't the issue, depression is. And once you're in the reason why you got in fades away and depression itself is what pulls you down. Escape depression, don't let it win. Its so easy to succumb but you can't give in, you just can't.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:35 pm
Sorry, I'll clarify. Yes, drugs to treat depression--Prozac, Xanax, that set.
Depends what you call the disease--depression? There's not a single cause or type of suicide. Some are long and carefully planned others truly are weirdly spur-of-the-moment. That's why cutting off access to temptation helps.
There are numerous things we can do--patrolling that intersection is a start. Getting the commitment Make a Promise suggests can help.
I don't think endlessly looking for people, schools and papers to blame helps much.
Posted by Mid-town, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:38 pm
This tragic news hits very close to home. These are my neighbors. My heart goes out to everyone who is affected by the recent losses in our community. We must all support each other. Students, PLEASE, communicate your feelings with those who care about you. No matter what is at issue, you must see that life is very precious and worth living. Give yourselves the will to get through the hard times and visualize life and your dreams.
GUNN needs to consider if enough counselors are present and available to the student body. This is the time of year where GUNN should provide more support services to their students. The school and PAPD shouls consider monitoring the tracks until school gets out.
Posted by Don't do it, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:38 pm
Hello. I am a student at gunn. If anybody reading this post is considering taking their life, DO NOT DO IT. For heavens sake, you live in the USA! You live in California! You live in the bay area! And best of all, Palo alto! Think how privileged you are to be here. There are millions of people who are in way worse postions than you are right now, and they would love to be in your shoes. Please, think of where you live, your community, and what would happen if you took your life away.
Posted by gets it, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:40 pm
look, i went to gunn high school in the last 4 years, and gunn has the people to help students, they really do, i was helped by them in an incredible time of need, the teachers and the counselors are so understanding, its really is up to students and parents being just a little more interested in others and being a little more open with one another, an the help will come.
It was also my experience that many kids at gunn wouldn't open up to one another on an emotional level and i am barely 21, insecurity, coolness, and being dope will only lead to more of this, which kills us all so deep down
Posted by Greg, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:41 pm
My congratulations to the mother for being observant and persistent enough to prevent this suicide. Family and friends have to be the first line of defense against suicide. The schools and police are too underfunded to be completely effective at this.
Posted by SadMom, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:42 pm
Dear Teens - This is a difficult time you are going thru - dealing with pressure from school, and maybe from parents as well. There is anxiety to transition into a new stage of life, separation from family/friends. Its not easy, but not impossible either. Please remember that your friends and family are always going to be on your side and you will sail thru.
Life is too precious to take away. Please dont put yourself, your friends and family thru the pain of loosing a loved one.
Posted by Maya, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:43 pm
This is really sad. The police have to do something drastic here don't you think? They need to place patrol cars at all of the train track crossings 24/7 AND all trains will have to be delayed and slow down at a crossings until this situation is under control...I know this will delay commuters, but it is essential that this trend is stopped.
Then, once this is done, everyone needs to take a deep breath and figure out what is going on here and why.
One thing to consider is that there is too much media in society in general, Facebook, Myspace, all kinds of stimulation, including games, videos, pressures to succeed in a society that is becomming more and more difficult for all of us...
When you are in your teens you are not fully formed, there are so many hormones and emotions going on..and there is a sense of invincibility that exists there where you cannot comprehend "dying" and maybe thing that there is something over on the other side...but there may not be, so we should all make the most of this life. Having said that, I know that is probably no solace to those that are suffering right now and may want to kill themselves. All I know is when I pass by the train tracks there every day on my way to work I feel an incredible sadness that makes me tear up every morning...with a big gulp in my throat.
While many parallels are different between MIT and Gunn I think it is important to note that cluster-suicides are a horrible psychological phenomenon that happen in high-achieving environments.
The police, Administration and School board, Gunn counselors, and entire Gunn community are using all the tools in their arsenal. While it is important to make sure they are doing just that, we must also support them and try and not let the anger get the best of us and resort to blame first. Everyone is angry and devastated but this should be a time in the Gunn community of coming together not pointing fingers.
This is the time for parents to have dinner with their children every night and be as big a presence in their lives as possible. I am so grateful the mother was there.
Posted by no., a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:46 pm
Making the person feel GUILTY that they live here instead of some other place is NOT going to help them when they are about to end their lives. It's about the PAIN they are feeling, not about how many opportunities they are giving up that could be given to someone else.
Posted by YSK, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:47 pm
It is not the schools fault. It is not the cops fault. It's not a fault matter. It's a bad desperate decision. It is impossible to patrol the entire length of tracks through Palo Alto 24/7. I personally chased a young woman off the tracks last year. It didn't matter. She went farther up the line and completed the act. My daughter and I removed another teen two months ago from the tracks at Meadow and called the cops.
Stand on notice kids, I am unemployed at this time and live near this crossing. I have a cell and am sickened by all of this. I will be watching, I think the whole City will be. I will not hesitate to stop and question any person lingering on the tracks any longer than it takes to cross the street. I will look up and down the line too. I will call the cops if I see anyone anywhere near the tracks. I'm sure others will do so now as well. The community is on alert.
I'm sorry if you are hurting, believe me, we all are. We can empathize. If you can't get past your own pain, think about what this would do to your family, friends, the train personnel and emergency people.
There is nothing heroic in taking your own life. It's WRONG! If you are failing a class, big deal. Take the F, walk with your class, take your empty sleeve, go to summer school. Nobody will know but you and your counselor. All this stuff is just stuff, can be remedied!
I read that Sonja left a note. Kids seem desperate to know why. Maybe this once, if it didn't have to do with what kids are speculating, something of her reason can be shared with these kids needing answers so desperately?
Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:52 pm
I agree looking for people, schools or papers to blame is not the answer.
If increased teen suicide has a major basis in depression, then I would say depression is a symptom, and not the disease.
So what is causing the depression?
Some have indicated the stress of finals and college admissions, and
given my original comparison, college admission in the late 60's was competitive, as it is today. Back then the consequences were far worse than now. Not being accepted for college then usually meant being drafted and going to fight in Viet Nam.
Posted by kay, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2009 at 11:54 pm
This isn't happening in MP, MV, LA, EPA, Cupertino, etc. You all are in a pressure cooker and need to figure this out, fast. It was bad when I was in school in PA, and since that time, more than half a dozen students have killed themselves. You plastic Palo Alto bubble is popping and it's messy, heartbreaking, tragic, but preventable.
Posted by anon, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:02 am
I feel as if there are several points that need to be addressed.
1. Everyone assumes that it is because Gunn/Palo Alto is a "pressure cooker" that these suicides happened. Believe me, nobody ends his or her life because of a bad test grade. It is because they feel ALONE, and no one can make the pain stop. So please, stop attributing it to the "finals," the "grades," etc.
2. I completely agree that all the media hype is making it worse. Those who are thinking about it want someone to care, and when they see the news glorifying it they will think that the same will happen for them if they kill themselves.
3. Manning the train tracks is just an idea thats floating around because of the shock that there has been 2 deaths in such a short amount of time, both in the same way. But it will ultimately do very little. If someone wants to commit suicide, he or she will find a way. If it isn't the train tracks, it's going to be something else. And it's going to be impossible for us to man every single possible suicide site.
So just take time out of your day to start up a conversation, smile at someone...you never know. It may just be a small gesture to you, but it could make all the difference for someone else.
Posted by Gunn Student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:02 am
First and foremost this is the schools fault. I am sorry, the truth hurts, but this has to be brought to the surface. I am a gunn student and basically these teachers and staff in my opinnion are not even " In Touch " with reality. Gunn instills a quite cut throat atmosphere in which Getting an "A" is seemingly more important than life itself. If you truly want this problem to be fixed then this is where it has to start.
I am being honest and putting this out there in hopes that we finally begin to change things and stop hiding from the truth. I can not stand to see another one of these tragedies occur. For goodness sake please make the necessary adjustments
Posted by paly grad, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:05 am
i am hoping that this, after two students committing suicide, will "wake up" parents in palo alto (and the school administrations) to let kids de-stress a little. the pressure is unimaginable that students deal with in high school (i know from personal experience). the students need to know that they dont HAVE to go to stanford/IVY league schools, or even go to college for that matter! it depends on the student, and what their personal ideas are on how to go about life after high school but in no way should ivy-league college be taught as a REQUIREMENT. i graduated with over ten other students who all went to stanford. yes there was pressure to go to a school such as stanford but no i did not go. it was my strength/being the "black sheep" that kept me from not giving into the palo alto school conformity.
imho, even middle schools and some elementary schools are amping up the pressure put on students to succeed (SAT prep courses for middle schoolers?!). at any rate, i hope that the tragic loss of both these students (JP&Sonya) will allow the palo alto community to take a second look at pressures within the education system.
i would have hoped by now that SOMEONE would have realized this was a problem - my 8th, 9th, and 10th grade years at jordan/paly included 1 suicide PER year by a fellow student. obviously it has not made enough of an impact... lets allow these two students to give palo alto a heads up/realize change IS in order, and ASAP might i add.
and to "a mom" and everyone else with the PAPD idea... that does not work. whoever is determined to commit suicide will. what does a cop standing at a crossing help besides endanger an officers life IN ADDITION to the suicidal person trying to run infront of a train. this idea will NOT work. and mind you, they just got rid of the school resource officer position - how about talking to city council for funding to just keep officers at our SCHOOLS to begin with. not waste resources standing at crossings. if they are "hidden" it still wont make a difference. plus, if they do see an officer standing there they will just go to another crossing. this is absurd...
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:09 am
Stress seems to be a factor, but of a particular kind. As you point out, there were serious consequences to not getting into college. There are some dire conditions where suicide doesn't happen--the concentration camps, though there's a high rate among the *survivors*.
Asians and whites have higher suicide rates than do Hispanics and blacks--and I think you know which groups face big stressors like crime and poverty in greater numbers. But the rates of depression are high among the poor---the vast majority of depressed people aren't suicidal.
It seems to be stress on one level combined with a lack of coping skills on the other. Our kids aren't nearly as independent as we were, I think. It also seems to me that there's a lack of perspective--stuff gets blown out of proportion and seems impossible to handle.
Posted by YSK, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:09 am
To those of you that don't want to read the 'preaching'. Stop reading. These are people reaching out to others during this time of pain, dharing thoughts, opinions, feelings and ideas. It's one way to stay emotionally healthy. Even if it's not YOUR way, please allow others the freedom. Besides, you may be only speaking for yourself. Someone else may receive comfort from this process.
Posted by think about things, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:11 am
the problem is with are economic systems that promote selfishness, we are bread to be selfish, so when we get pushed to the limits (and trust me we do, every day) we become selfish, we would not who we are today with out the entire population being selfish. either are economic systems need to change or stress levels need to change. nothing else can be done in this town to stop it. palo alto is not a fantastic place to live, and the people who kill them selfs know that. its a town full of never ending pressure and introverts, that is what is are fault.
Posted by P'd off parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:11 am
I appreciate the comments of "2010 student". He or she is correct. We baby boomers have no idea what life is like for our kids because things have changed too much. I'm horrified at the images of violence and death that children and teens routinely see in movies. Plus, as bad as the 50s and 60s were, our society today has no room for pity, especially self-pity. I thrived on self-pity as an adolescent; it gave me much comfort.
BTW, Gunn also has a significant cheating problem. One student TA was changing people's grades for $500 a pop. The teacher knew about it and did nothing. PAUSD, wake up and smell the triple latte.
Kids today have many reasons to be angry. I detected some anger in 2010's message and that's why I liked it. I hope that 2010 and others like him/her will express more of that anger. Believe me, it's good for you!
Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:13 am
Our experience at Gunn has been that the teachers and counsellors and administration are incredibly caring and hard working. They all have way too many kids assigned to them because there is not enough funding for education, so there is a topic I have not seen addressed. Our family has the utmost gratitude and respect for these people who work very very hard to take care of and nurture our kids as they navigate these difficult years in a stressful environment. We are overwhelmingly sad as a community. Our child reported to us that after Sonya's death was announced, the entire student body was out on the quad at Gunn, and that it was completely silent except for the sound of people crying. The seniors are trying to enjoy their last days of high school with all of this grief and anger and confusion and heartbreak swirling around them. I for one will be praying for the mother who saved her son tonight, and the passerby who helped, for the rest of my life. I hope someone is taking care of her.
Posted by Student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:17 am
No, this is not the school's fault. You can't place singular blame for something like this. It's more than that. What I do agree with is that there is something going on, and the Gunn is in the best position to intervene.
I may be wrong, but I feel like right now the school is off debating how to proceed rather than dealing with us students ourselves. I did not see one counselor step into the theatre all day. I don't think any of us would have eaten if the wonderful parents hadn't brought us food and water to get us through the incredibly emotional day.
And teachers can put on the facade of accomodation, but it doesn't seem to be enough. I was required to take my Chemistry final on the day of Sonya's death, despite me and a few classmates of mine obviously not being in a state to deal with that. We weren't allowed to take today or Monday because "everybody would talk about it".
Teachers have to wake up and realize that it isn't the Chemistry final we're talking about when we're crying and comforting one another. Look around for a second and realize what's going on.
Posted by GunnStudent2010, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:21 am
I completely agree. The final AP biology test of the year was administered the Friday of JP's death. In a class taken mostly by juniors, many of us were hardly ready for schoolwork. I myself was unable to concentrate, so I just filled in bubbles and left...
The school needs to take a time out for everything.
Posted by student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:28 am
No, we haven't trashed their names by saying we need a few days off. For many, if is difficult to concentrate on matters like school and take tests when you know the person that sat next to you will never be there ever again, and that the person you called everyday will never pick up again.
Posted by Student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:28 am
There is absolutely NO WAY that the death of a loved friend does not impact your state of mind and therefore your finals/schoolwork. Having dealt with a number of my friends dying, I can tell my body reacts poorly every time. My friend dying is not an excuse to not take a final. It's wanting to stay successful because Sonya wouldn't have wanted us to do poorly because of her.
Posted by YSK, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:33 am
I'm with 2010 on this. That was a cogent well thought out statement. Apathy is a defense to fear of failure. It goes even further in that out of best intentions, we have spoiled our kids by instant gratification. We have taken away coping skills, the very same skills we need to develop as we mature in order to deal with and overcome difficulties and disappointments in life. Just last week a group of us were commenting on how so many young people these days can't tolerate even a minute of pain or failure. They fall apart or seek some way to numb the pain immediately. We have to step back earlier and allow our children to fail once in a while. It builds strength!
Posted by P'd off parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:39 am
Hey kids! I waffled and screwed around until I was 28 years old, THEN went to a prestigious grad school and made good grades ... except for the test I failed two days after John Lennon died, because some things are more important than tests. Eventually I got the Ph.D., the high-paying job, the 2.1 children, the nice house and I have lived happily ever after.
You guys are, what, 17-18 years old? Heck, to my way of thinking, that gives you TEN YEARS to screw around! The jobs aren't going anywhere. They will still be there when you are 28. Or 26, or 24. What's the rush? My humble proposal: Go on strike. Tell PAUSD to find someone else to slave for the high test scores that make them feel so proud of themselves.
Posted by A Paly Parent, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:44 am
A friend of mine wanted to commit suicide when I was in college. She was full of talent. I helped stop her suicide plan. She was in pain, not able to deal with the stress she faced. Today, she is a very happy person working hard to help other people. I did not tell my friend's parents that my friend was planning for a suicide after I helped stop the event. I don't know if my friend's parents would ever know such an event. I felt lucky that I stopped my study in that evening in the classroom when I started to worry about my friend. I came to her just in time. It's unbelievable. Sometimes, I do believe my instinct. If we worry about our friend, we need to give more care to our friend even it can mean that we would need to spend our precious time helping our friend. I am sorry that we all were not able to prevent the tragic events for the two Gunn high students. I don't personally know them. It's always unbelievable to me that my college friend would put herself in such a situation and her parents had no way to know it at all. Now I am a parent of two kids. I hope kids can feel that we are all in a caring community. Everyone is important in this community. Today, my college friend is a very happy person and she always said to me she enjoys her work helping other people. I have lost two family members through illness. I can understand how painful it's for people in the family to lose a wonderful son, daughter, brother or sister. When I lost my brother when I was at age 13, it was like the end of my world. I would forever miss him. He passed away from an illness at age 19. No one is perfect in this world. We have to deal with difficulties. Don't hurt yourself. Let people know you are in pain. Your parents, family members and friends all love you.
Posted by LOL, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:56 am
Walter, are you suggesting that we seperate palo alto just because people want to kill themselves? seriously if someone wants to kill themselves TRAINS ARE NOT THEIR ONLY CHOICE. There are sooo many ways to commit suicide people need to stop suggesting their retard ideas about these train crossings
Posted by lolmoney, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 1:00 am
at least paloaltoonline readers aren't as dumb as those of sfgate. when each of the suicide articles came out, on sfgate people were like, oh it's probably because of loud ipods and the kid probably didn't hear the train coming, etc. etc. some people were using it as arguments for spending billions on making elevated train tracks.
Posted by YSK, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 1:03 am
It isn't PAUSD causing this curriculum. It's the parents who are demanding it. They are holding the District to impossibly high standards in order to make our kids excel. Parents in this district hold a lot of the power.
Want change? Start attending PTA meetings and demand it.
Posted by Gregg, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 5, 2009 at 1:08 am
Thank god, a life has been saved thanks to a good citizen, i wish it would've been the same with my friend jp,or with sonya. We have to find a way to stop this domino effect. Tomorrow some students from Gunn are launching the Free hugs day starting tomorrow..well today June 5 - the end of the school year.
Posted by Dear Thomas,, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 5, 2009 at 1:28 am
If we were trying to be noticed dont you think we would have killed ourselves by now? Its not about being noticed, its about being able to write what we want, because we can ( until pa online ) people get back to work.
Posted by Michele, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 1:31 am
Hi - I think it is time to declare school over for this year. Give kids the grade they have so far in class and it's time to go home and let things calm down. Kids need to relax and rest and mourn their friends. Adults need to ratchet down the pressure. We have lost some beautiful people and almost lost another one. Time to withdraw and reconsider.
Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford, on Jun 5, 2009 at 2:03 am
For many years I worked at a job where I had involvement with parents (and teens) from all over the country. I soon realized a pattern with parents from one city. While most were polite and articulate, they were also demanding, persistent, took a tremendous amount of people's time, often wanted to bend the rules, and thought their children were geniuses. The city: Palo Alto. I was staggered by the tremendous pressure these kids seemed to be under, and was amazed at their achievements, which often came at a toll. One girl (from P.A.) who looked exhausted at our meeting told me she slept only 3-4 hours a night due to her workload. It was unnerving to hear this over and over, and I felt so sorry for the kids. Maybe they should be told that it's okay to get Bs or Cs. in school. Maybe they could go--God forbid!--to a community college for a couple years and transfer to a four year college. Not everyone is cut out to be a brain surgeon or engineer. I will pray for the kids of this city, and those--may they rest in peace--who felt that taking their lives was the only way out.
Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford, on Jun 5, 2009 at 2:07 am
P.S. I think the idea from the students to patrol the train tracks is wonderful. I can't imagine the grief of losing your classmates (well, a bit, as I lost classmates from accidental drug overdoses), but your courage, sensitivity, and strength is inspiring. Bless you all.
Posted by Serious, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 5:57 am
I saw this happen...Why is there not a cop hanging out there 24/7 for a few weeks? Is the PAPD really to busy fighting crime to manage this?
I was a sophomore at Paly in 1986 when one of my close friends lay his head on the tracks. This is EVERYBODY'S problem. The school, faculty, students, community, authority...there is no one who doesn't have their hand in this pot-and it's boiling over. One kid over 20 years ago- his loss is still felt- What is going on at Gunn will leave a deep gouge in the history books of Palo Alto and a void in the lives of all those who have been touched.
Posted by kludged, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 8:36 am kludged is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Could the Editors of PaloAltoOnline PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE only allow registered users to comment on ANY future article about suicide, attempted suicide, Gunn, etc. etc. Distraght members of the community who were up in the middle of the night, got to read constant troll postings which were harmful and destructive at a time when emotions are raw. With emotionally unstable children involve it was UTTERLY irresponsible to post a story about a new suicide attempt, turn the comments on to the community and leave for the night. Please be more sensitive/responsible.
Posted by Dottie, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 8:59 am Dottie is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
I am a Gunn student.
I don’t need to read every comment to know what is said. “Suicide is wrong!” “They need more officers watching the tacks!” “What is wrong with him!?!” “What is wrong with his mother?!?!” It’s all the same. So to answer some question and to clear some controversy, There ARE people watching the train tracks from the morning ((Sorry I don’t have an exact hour)) until 9pm. The whole, “We need more people watching the track 24/7” is not a solution. There are more ways to commit suicide thank just running onto the train tracks. Once it would get too hard for someone to do it, they will find a new way. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] When the thought of suicide comes up in a persons brain it is usually because they are already sad and depressed and is not thinking clearly. In the thought process of the suicidal, it is the best option to make all the pain go away. After I say this you will probably still say its wrong and immoral but again, the suicidal think it is the best option because they are ill and they are hurting so badly that they just want it to stop. And with the, “What is wrong with the mother?!?!” Well, she probably didn’t know how he was feeling. People don’t tell others how bad they feel because they don’t want to burden others with their problems, even if they are paid to do it. I know, myself, it took me roughly 5 years to tell my parents how I really feel. It was hard to do; almost impossible because I didn’t know how they would react. Anyways, this isn’t about me. The idea is the same. It all seems impossibly hard to handle and take control of. Please, keep your rude and harsh comments to yourself because not only does it honestly hurt me, it is hurting all of Gunn’s students and staff. I am asking with a heavy heart to watch what you say. Thank You.
Posted by kapop, a resident of Mountain View, on Jun 5, 2009 at 9:04 am kapop is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
"I was required to take my Chemistry final on the day of Sonya's death, despite me and a few classmates of mine obviously not being in a state to deal with that" -- I have to say, I am stunned by this comment. I cannot see how anyone could be expected to function at all after so big a trauma. Those students needed emotional support -- not academic pressure.
Posted by Wynn, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 9:09 am Wynn is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Kevin Skelley and a Palo Alto policeman were again at the Gunn entrance this morning when I was dropping off my son. A member of the school administrative staff handed out the following note to the drivers waiting to leave the school grounds:
"Dear students and staff,
"We know that many of you will be concerned and scared this morning after hearing the news that another Gunn student was involved in an incident at the railway line last night. This student is well and is being treated in a local hospital. If you wish to learn details about the incident please check Palo Alto Online.
"Palo Alto and San Mateo police will be patrolling the railway tracks from now on so please stay away from them. They will not allow students anywhere near the tracks.
"Some of you may need emotional support today. We will have counselors and psychologists available for you all day both in the Guidance Office and around campus if you need or want to talk to someone. We are here for you.
"Please look out for and care for each other. We need to work and come together as a community to get through these difficult times."
Posted by Kmom, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 9:31 am Kmom is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
I recently read about how dogs can really help people's spirits during times of stress, etc.
What about allowing dogs on campus next week. Let kids bring their dogs in the morning before class starts and let them give them hugs goodbye. Also let the dogs come after school is out to greet them at the end of their day. Cats could come too. Even pet birds. It's just an idea, but it could boost spirits and animals are so nonjudgmental it could give the students some of that support they could use right now.
Posted by mother of 15 year old, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 10:48 am mother of 15 year old is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
In the comments I notice a couple of themes that I don't think should be promoted:
First, something like this is no one's fault. There is no reason to lay blame. Teenagers are going through all sorts of emotional and hormonal changes, their reactions aren't calibrated well, and they don't have enough life experience to be able to see into the future to know that whatever is upsetting them is a moment in time that will end. To blame the school or the police or the parents or the boyfriend isn't really fair or productive.
Second: This is not a new phenomenom based on the stresses of today. I was in high school in the 70s and we had three successful suicides while I was there and at least 4 attempts. Teenagers have always looked to suicide as a way out. Stress has always been there, in one form or another. School, social issues, gender issues, parental discord, etc. So this is not a 2009 issue, it's a teenage issue.
And finally, given how much money the city puts into weird projects that people can't get behind...how about encasing the railroad tracks in a chain link tunnel, i.e. like the one that is over the bike bridge to the baylands...just a fence that arches over the tracks.
My heart goes out to all parents who suffer the loss of a child this way. It's so so sad and so unnecessary.
Posted by JustMe, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 11:35 am JustMe is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
I am reminded of Shawshank Redemption, one of the little sub-plots in there. Remember the old guy who had been there all his adult life and had gotten the job of librarian, passing out books to the prisoners from a cart he push around? Then, toward the end of the movie he was paroled, let out of prison, given a room and a job bagging groceries in a store, and he committed suicide. As the character played by Morgan Freeman explained it, within Shawshank he was somebody. Everyone knew and respected him, he has his place, and there was order. Once he was forced to leave Shawshank, he was in a new world, he was nobody, he didn't understand the new rules, he didn't feel he belonged or fit, and so he removed himself.
I see a similarity to these kids about to graduate high school. In high school they are somebody, they have their places, they know the rules and how to make things work, and it all fits. They have a comfort zone. Now they are forced to leave, they will become "nobody", removed from all their friends, possibly removed from family, dealing with real life rather than the shelterd and nurturing life they had in high school, learning new and harsh realities, and expected to succeed. It is daunting, downright scary. They know things will be different going to college, they have been told there are different rules to the outside world, and they are naturally fearful and anxious. Are they making the same decision about it that was made by the guy in Shawshank Redemption, not seeing another way?
What happens when you kick an agoraphobic out onto the street?
Posted by go_bruins, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 11:56 am go_bruins is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Blame cannot be placed solely on the school. Since suicides never make sense, blame cannot be placed on any one person or entity. We will never know what was going on any of the deceased's minds, so we will never know what were the exact stressors or trigger points. So please stop trying to point blame on the school. This is no one's fault.
I am a recent Gunn alum. I took almost all AP and honors courses offered at the time and I came out unscathed. Is Gunn to be blamed for the recent suicides/attempt? I doubt that BC calculus has radically changed in the last few years, or that the way English literature is examined has changed. The academic rigors and the teachers shouldn't be blamed since this is the way it's always been at Gunn.
What has changed though? Size of the school population for one. Society has changed. Expectations have changed. The economy is in terrible shape. Yes, Gunn is a competitive school, but what really drives a student is peer competition and perceived (or explicit) parental expectations. Additionally, standards are set high by the previous classes, so it's up to the next class to meet or exceed said expectations. I think that parents should have a continuing open line of communication with their children. It's okay to set expectations, but don't set them absurdly high either. At least verbalize them so that your children assume you expect one thing instead of another. Reassure your children that failure is okay and that it actually makes you stronger.
Honestly, I find it a little surprising that parents complain about Gunn and its academic rigors. My parents moved to Palo Alto just for the schools; I have friends whose parents also who moved from neighboring cities to Palo Alto so they could attend Palo Alto schools. If parents are so concerned about Gunn or Paly, then perhaps consider not moving at all.
Posted by AlanS, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:04 pm AlanS is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
We need to build a bike bridge over the E. Meadow tracks ASAP.
Most of the kids that bike down to Gunn from this side of Alma
funnel to that crossing to get across the tracks. It scares me
to see kids waiting while a train passes in the morning. A kids
going to Gunn could cross those tracks several hundred times in
a 4 year school career.
The teen years a very volatile emotionally, and many that think
about doing themselves harm never do (permanently at least) because
it is difficult. The problem with those tracks is when a train
passes by, suicide is as easy has taking a few steps forward, and
only takes a few seconds of resolve to finish. Teens make
bad choices all the time, choices that most regret later but learn from, but a bad choice at the E. Meadow crossing cannot be undone. That crossing has become unfortunately our Golden Gate Bridge. We have already spent 10 million dollars to put a fence, we need a bike bridge to complete the project properly.
Posted by psych major, a resident of Stanford, on Jun 5, 2009 at 2:41 pm psych major is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
So many have commented that "those who are determined will find a way," even if they are physically stopped at the E. Meadow crossing. According to research, this is simply a myth. (See a recent NYT article by Scott Anderson -- "suicide impulsive" .) Suicide is often impulsive, and those who are stopped once often do not try again. That is why police patrols and chain link fences really can make a difference.
Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2009 at 5:12 pm Paly Parent is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
My cousin, now 50, said he was going to commit suicide when he was in high school ... had it all planned. A high school friend invited him to a party the night he was going to end his life, and so he went to that, and thinks it saved his life. All it takes sometimes is one gesture, however small! Be inclusive. Be kind.
Posted by sue dremann, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer, on Jun 5, 2009 at 5:47 pm sue dremann is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Dear Gunn High School community,
Palo Alto Police spokesman Agent Dan Ryan has confirmed and wants the community to know that police guards and patrols will be out at the three intersections: Churchill, West Meadow and West Charleston, all day and night for many days to come to ensure safety along the Caltrain tracks.
Students planning to patrol the tracks can be assured that police will take care and the students need not patrol, he said. Police will also patrol along the length of the tracks on dirt bikes.