News

Religious groups to speak on supporting teens

Mayor will moderate Aug. 31 panel responding to two recent suicides and an attempt

Responding to two suicides and at least one attempted suicide by Palo Alto teens last spring, local religious groups have joined to offer a "multifaith community response" with an Aug. 31 panel on "Supporting Our Teens" at Cubberley Theatre.

Supporting teens' "spiritual, mental, social and physical well-being as they begin the school year" will be the topic of an Aug. 31 multi-faith panel discussion at the Cubberley Community Theatre, 4000 Middlefield Road.

Palo Alto Mayor Peter Drekmeier will moderate the six-member panel, which will include representatives from Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Roman Catholic and Christian Science traditions.

After remarks from each panelist, the speakers will respond to questions from the community. To submit a question in advance, e-mail it to [email protected] by Sunday Aug. 30.

Several faith communities are organizing youth-only events open to all teens, which will be announced during the program.

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Panelists will be the Rev. William Masuda of Palo Alto Buddhist Temple; Samina Faheem Sundas of the American Muslim Voice; Rabbi Janet Marder of Congregation Beth Am of Los Altos Hills; the Rev. David Howell of First Congregational United Church of Christ of Palo Alto; Sherry Cassedy of the Catholic Community of Palo Alto; and Eric Nelson of the First Church of Christ, Scientist.

Representatives from other faith traditions and local congregations will be available at the end of the program for further discussion.

"The forum is planned in part in response to the tragic teen suicides and suicide attempts at the end of the last school year, prompting faith leaders from diverse traditions to come together to offer care and support to the whole community," organizers said in an announcement.

The CalTrain suicides of Gunn High School students Jean Paul "JP" Blanchard and Sonya Raymakers in May and June, as well as at least one other attempted suicide, stunned the community and sparked a discussion of ways to improve the social-emotional health of teens.

Leaders in the Palo Alto Unified School District also are considering steps to address the issue, including convening teachers of the "Living Skills" classes required at both high schools to discuss the possibility of a common curriculum, and training teachers on ways to spot students who may be struggling.

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For more information on the Aug. 31 panel, see www.multifaithpeace.org or call 650 569-3416.

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Religious groups to speak on supporting teens

Mayor will moderate Aug. 31 panel responding to two recent suicides and an attempt

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Mon, Aug 10, 2009, 9:48 am

Responding to two suicides and at least one attempted suicide by Palo Alto teens last spring, local religious groups have joined to offer a "multifaith community response" with an Aug. 31 panel on "Supporting Our Teens" at Cubberley Theatre.

Supporting teens' "spiritual, mental, social and physical well-being as they begin the school year" will be the topic of an Aug. 31 multi-faith panel discussion at the Cubberley Community Theatre, 4000 Middlefield Road.

Palo Alto Mayor Peter Drekmeier will moderate the six-member panel, which will include representatives from Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Roman Catholic and Christian Science traditions.

After remarks from each panelist, the speakers will respond to questions from the community. To submit a question in advance, e-mail it to [email protected] by Sunday Aug. 30.

Several faith communities are organizing youth-only events open to all teens, which will be announced during the program.

Panelists will be the Rev. William Masuda of Palo Alto Buddhist Temple; Samina Faheem Sundas of the American Muslim Voice; Rabbi Janet Marder of Congregation Beth Am of Los Altos Hills; the Rev. David Howell of First Congregational United Church of Christ of Palo Alto; Sherry Cassedy of the Catholic Community of Palo Alto; and Eric Nelson of the First Church of Christ, Scientist.

Representatives from other faith traditions and local congregations will be available at the end of the program for further discussion.

"The forum is planned in part in response to the tragic teen suicides and suicide attempts at the end of the last school year, prompting faith leaders from diverse traditions to come together to offer care and support to the whole community," organizers said in an announcement.

The CalTrain suicides of Gunn High School students Jean Paul "JP" Blanchard and Sonya Raymakers in May and June, as well as at least one other attempted suicide, stunned the community and sparked a discussion of ways to improve the social-emotional health of teens.

Leaders in the Palo Alto Unified School District also are considering steps to address the issue, including convening teachers of the "Living Skills" classes required at both high schools to discuss the possibility of a common curriculum, and training teachers on ways to spot students who may be struggling.

For more information on the Aug. 31 panel, see www.multifaithpeace.org or call 650 569-3416.

Comments

concerned
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2009 at 5:31 pm
concerned, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2009 at 5:31 pm

This is a genuine problem that calls for the skills of mental health professionals, not religious clerics, whose training in mental health counseling is often lacking. It's unfortunate that the local dogma-based organizations are exploiting this tragedy to recruit new converts.


sharon
Midtown
on Aug 10, 2009 at 6:38 pm
sharon, Midtown
on Aug 10, 2009 at 6:38 pm

We feel the multifaith community response is great idea and the timing is excellent.

The unfortunate fact is that pretty much all psychological interventions are not evidence based, there are some good double blind studies showing that medications work to treat depression but MFTs and para professionals cannot prescribe these.

There is solid evidence from many studies that belonging to a church etc is associated with better mental, physical health and longer life.
Regarding the Gunn suicides.
We are glad that Stanford and PAMF eventually stepped in and provided professional supervision and peer reviewed interventions for Gunn students.
At some point we need a forthright conversation about how the matter was handled and to document lessons learned.

For example, WHO has clear evidence based guidelines about how to handle such suicides, these guidelines were not followed in Palo Alto, we need to know why and make sure that procedures are in place to do the right thing moving forward


debbie
Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2009 at 1:41 am
debbie, Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2009 at 1:41 am

Too bad this wasn't offered during the school year. Attendance in August will be off because of vacations. Hope this is brought back after school starts.

I'm glad the local churches are getting involved. They seemed to be missing in the PAUSD's response to the two Gunn suicides. I understand that many in Palo Alto think the constitution requires a separation between church and state (actaully, it isn't in the constitution, but the myth lives on), but no law or court precedent would be violated by offering a multi-denominational approach like this.

What people need is hope and the understanding that there is a God who loves us. That message is far more comforting to kids than the politically correct, atheistic message brought by "grief counselors" and others who push secularism above all else.


Misha
Midtown
on Aug 11, 2009 at 7:44 am
Misha, Midtown
on Aug 11, 2009 at 7:44 am

There is no one universal reason why anyone decides to take his/her own life, so please do not seek the single solution, whether it be with the school administration, the medical community, the faith-based organization. Be grateful to all who step forward to lend a helping hand that may be for someone the key or one of the factors that keeps them living. If faith brings someone back from the brink or keeps them from reaching the brink, be grateful for these organizations.


tolerance?
Barron Park
on Aug 16, 2009 at 4:55 pm
tolerance?, Barron Park
on Aug 16, 2009 at 4:55 pm

There was some mention that one of the teens was gay. Would there be tolerance of that individual's sexual orientation in that religious counseling? With most religious groups' support of prop 8 could religion help this teen or made it worse by saying you would burn in hell for being gay and still burn in hell for committing suicide?
People please respond.


Speaking as Religious person
Meadow Park
on Aug 17, 2009 at 7:58 am
Speaking as Religious person, Meadow Park
on Aug 17, 2009 at 7:58 am

Do not confuse tolerance with approval. Tolerating a behavior in someone does not connote approval. Many people get confused and believe that others must actively approve of their behavior to be considered tolerant, whereas in fact simply live and let live is tolerance.

So, if you smoke, I can tolerate it, and if I love you, I can try to get you to stop so that you don't hurt yourself. If you don't stop, I can continue to try, or I can simply accept you for who you are, and love you the way you are, simply asking you to not smoke around me, doing what I can in a reasonable manner to encourage you to change and grow.

If you are gay, and if I am of the kind of religious person who truly believes that living as a gay person will cause you more pain than not living as a gay person, ie; is "wrong" ( that is what makes behaviors "wrong", behaviors that hurt yourself or others), I can love you and accept you as a gay person, but if I believe you are confused, ( which I have seen), I can try to guide you to help. If it is obvious that you aren't confused, then I can simply ask you to respect me and not smooch your bf/gf in front of me. ( actually, I prefer nobody smooch in front of me)

Your behaviors, be they in a gay relationship or a straight one, are still subject to moral goals, and therefore I can stilll try to help you not sleep around, work on the values of a full, committed and loving relationship, etc. A loving committed relationship is a loving committed relationship, regardless of who it is with, but we still have an obligation to try to help those we love find the most peaceful, happiest path of life.

I would feel the same way about a, say, 21 year old falling in love with a 50 year old. I would not want that for my beloved 21 year old,wanting him to have the best chance possible for a full and happy life, and would do all I could, in a loving way, to discourage that relationship. But, once it became obvious that this adult was determined to love that 50 year old, I would do all I could to support the relationship to grow in a loving, holy way. I would have to avoid them when they were smooching, though, since I would feel a little ill.

So, don't be such a bigot about religious views of being gay. The "burning in hell" part for being either gay or for being a suicide is not something 99% of us believe in a literal way. You reveal a lack of understanding about what people of faith are like, what we believe, and how we think. You do not understand that hell is an absence of God, which means an absence of light, of love, of peace and joy. The goal is to help people walk toward the true Love of God, not away. Clearly killing oneself implies that the deepest despair has overtaken one, the kind of despair that could be termed "hell", that cold, black, emptiness that can drive one to suicidal thoughts, if not actual completion. Helping someone come out of that pit is the goal of bringing someone toward God.

I suspect fewer people would kill themselves if they had an inner faith in God's love.


Eileen Altman
another community
on Aug 18, 2009 at 2:24 pm
Eileen Altman, another community
on Aug 18, 2009 at 2:24 pm

The faith communities represented at the forum have a variety of perspectives about GLBTQQ folks. One of the speakers is from First Congregational Church of Palo Alto, which is an open and affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ. We celebrate GLBTQQ individuals for all that God has created them to be, and worked actively to oppose the passage of Proposition 8. While it is certainly the case that some faith communities would not be supportive of a gay young person who is open and honest about her/his sexuality, it is a mistake to assume that all faith communities would be.


jb
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 18, 2009 at 2:33 pm
jb, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 18, 2009 at 2:33 pm

The panel being held on August 30 is a good choice of date. In Palo Alto school begins Tuesday, August 25. Only vacation stragglers will miss it. I don't know the starting dates for private schools, however.


R Wray
Midtown
on Aug 18, 2009 at 3:32 pm
R Wray, Midtown
on Aug 18, 2009 at 3:32 pm

"There is solid evidence from many studies that belonging to a church etc is associated with better mental, physical health and longer life."
I dispute this. In the Middle/Dark Ages people took their religion very seriously, and these times were not known for their mental and physical health or longevity.
Teens are harmed by injecting them with religious mysticism. They need a rational, reality-related frame of reference.


Christian
Palo Alto High School
on Aug 18, 2009 at 5:54 pm
Christian, Palo Alto High School
on Aug 18, 2009 at 5:54 pm

One cannot rationale what happened in the Middle Ages churches with the Church today. In the Middle Ages, there was plenty of mysticism, fear mongering and falsehood which presented itself due to the corruption of the church leaderships and the poor educational standards of the common people. Today the Church generally has to answer to the common people who are now well educated, well read on the dogma of their faith and are less likely to be taken in by frauds.

As a result, I concur with the statement

"There is solid evidence from many studies that belonging to a church etc is associated with better mental, physical health and longer life."

Today, the Church is very definitely making a positive effect on the lives of young people in particular. Regardless of denomination, those that work with the youth in our Churches are doing very good efforts in helping youth with problems of all types. Loving the sinner while hating the sin - regardless of the sin - is fundamental in these efforts. Undermining the mindset of those that are diligently helping our young people is doing them a great disservice.


Sharon
Midtown
on Aug 18, 2009 at 7:00 pm
Sharon, Midtown
on Aug 18, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Only a tiny fraction of high school students are gay.

High school is not the place to celebrate sexuality, there is plenty of time for that when they are over 18yrs.

We thing the faith based approach is a great idea and commend it.

If schools want to do any thing they should teach resilience.

The US military today committed $100m to train 1.2M troops to be resilient.
See NYT Web Link

I like this quote from Dr Seligman in the article.



�Psychology has given us this whole language of pathology, so that a soldier in tears after seeing someone killed thinks, �Something�s wrong with me; I have post-traumatic stress,� � or P.T.S.D., Dr. Seligman said. �The idea here is to give people a new vocabulary, to speak in terms of resilience.
Most people who experience trauma don�t end up with P.T.S.D.; many experience post-traumatic growth.�


Tolerance?
Barron Park
on Aug 23, 2009 at 9:31 pm
Tolerance?, Barron Park
on Aug 23, 2009 at 9:31 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Hmmm
East Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2009 at 8:07 pm
Hmmm, East Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2009 at 8:07 pm

There are some local churches who not only tolerate the gay and transgendered communities, but openly welcome and accept them, such as The Unitarian Church and First United Methodist Church.


Hmmm
East Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2009 at 8:11 pm
Hmmm, East Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2009 at 8:11 pm

If folks aren't comfortable w/religion or churches, there is also The Humanist community, and they're quite active in Palo Alto.

Churches can't be all things to all people, but a multifaith voice can't hurt - and I say include philosophical groups in that, such as Humanists. Some of the folks I've known to treat others with the utmost respect and care are Humanist, agnostic and atheist.


Sharon
Midtown
on Aug 28, 2009 at 3:05 pm
Sharon, Midtown
on Aug 28, 2009 at 3:05 pm



The event takes place on Monday evening here is the latest description

Six local religious leaders from Buddhist, Christian Scientist, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and Roman Catholic places of worship will speak at "Supporting Our Teens: A Multifaith Community Response." Palo Alto Mayor Peter Drekmeier will moderate the discussion, to be held 7 p.m. Monday at the Cubberley Community Center Theatre, 4000 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto.

The idea behind the event is to "add the unique gifts of spiritual traditions and communities as sources of strength and guidance in service to the whole community," according to a statement about the upcoming event.

The event is free and open to the public.

Most of the evening will be dedicated to answering community members' questions.
To submit a question in advance, e-mail it to [email protected] by Sunday.Web Link


Jerry Schwarz
Downtown North
on Aug 28, 2009 at 3:58 pm
Jerry Schwarz, Downtown North
on Aug 28, 2009 at 3:58 pm

I note that no representative of the non-believer community of Palo Alto has been invited to be on this panel. This seems like a significant omission. Many Palo Alto residents are atheists or humanists and we are just as concerned about the rash of suicides at Gunn as are our believing friends and neighbors.


Sharon
Midtown
on Aug 28, 2009 at 10:43 pm
Sharon, Midtown
on Aug 28, 2009 at 10:43 pm


The program announcement warmly invites Palo Altans of all faiths or no faith, it is a very diverse group of panelists and the focus is upon how we can help teens thrive and be more resilient.

There is good scientic evidence that being active in a church/ place of worship increases resilience and life expectancy in general.

AA etc are faith based movements-- and the higher power concept is left up to the participants conscience.

We feel that local faith groups have a great deal to offer in ending this suicide contagion and preventing future outbreaks,

Even our resident atheist(for the summer) Christopher Hitchens, supports the idea


Rajiv Bhateja
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Aug 31, 2009 at 11:22 pm
Rajiv Bhateja, Gunn High School
Registered user
on Aug 31, 2009 at 11:22 pm

The multifaith meeting was wonderful. Kudos to the organizers for a painstaking, thoughtful and valuable session. I particularly appreciated Mayor Drekmeier's moderating style and the comments by JP's uncle. (His courage in coming forward and his observations about teaching our kids to handle disappointment and eating dinner together really rang true with me.)

For any who are interested, Parent Project is a fabulous place to learn more about parenting in a safe, supportive environment.

Graduates of the Parent Project have formed a group that meets on a regular basis: palo _ alto _ parenting _ teens _at_ yahoogroups _dot_ com

Remove the spaces and substitute the appropriate symbols for _at_ and _dot_ above.

Rajiv


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