News


City asks Dr. Phil Show to not focus on Palo Alto

Program on teen stress involving Gunn High School would endanger vulnerable young persons, city cautions

Palo Alto city officials, including City Manager James Keene, have appealed to a senior producer at the Dr. Phil national television show not to focus on the Palo Alto community or Gunn High School in a planned program on teen stress March 14.

The Dr. Phil Show was setting up a round-table discussion for Saturday (March 6) to which it invited students and parents from Palo Alto, and "especially" from Gunn. Participants are also invited to be at a Tuesday taping of the full show in Los Angeles.

City officials and others representing "Project Safety Net," a multi-agency community group formed to respond to a series of recent deaths, called producers of the Dr. Phil Show on Thursday to express their concerns. Keene and Senior Recreaton Supervisor Rob de Geus from the city joined Becky Beacom of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Terry Godfrey, chair of the PTA Council, in the call.

In a follow-up e-mail to Senior Producer Astra Austin, de Geus, representing "Project Safety Net," said there are two primary concerns about the planned Dr. Phil program.

The first is that it could contribute to "suicide contagion" following the deaths of four Gunn students since last May, and the second is that the program could "perpetuate the myth" that stress and suicide are tightly connected.

De Geus cited extensive research that shows that excessive coverage of suicides and clusters of suicides can trigger other deaths, and that up to 80 or 90 percent of persons who commit suicide are suffering from some form of mental or emotional disorder, not simply stress.

"Palo Alto is a community at high-risk for more suicides due to suicide contagion," de Geus said in the e-mail. "Our most vulnerable teens (those perhaps with previous attempts or who are under medical care) need our protection right now -- and will for some time.

"We are doing everything in our power to reduce that risk -- which is the main reason it would not be prudent to involve Palo Alto -- or any other community currently undergoing this very serious phenomenon -- in the show."

He cited "compelling research ... that news stories on suicide and or related to suicide when a community is facing a suicide cluster can perpetuate the crisis and compromise the integrity of the safety effort." He referred to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and provided website URLs.

"As a community trying to stop further deaths and heal, most of the stories about the tragic suicides have not been helpful.

"We urge you to focus on another community with a similar profile but without the added emotional fragility of a recent suicide cluster," de Geus wrote.

"Please understand our reluctance to participate in the show should not suggest a reluctance to confront or deal with this issue. On the contrary, the Palo Alto community is working together, tirelessly, publicly and carefully on this issue."

He asked specifically that the show not use the names of students who have died, or the means, location, memorial activities or pictures or video of the location.

See full e-mail exchange below:

From: Austin, Astra

Sent: Friday, March 05, 2010 12:31 PM

To: De Geus, Robert; Wan, Wendi

Subject: RE: Dr. Phil - Palo Alto

Rob,

Thank you for this information. I appreciate it. This email is helpful. Per our conversation yesterday on the phone, I will forward this information.

Thanks,

Astra Austin

Senior Producer

From: De Geus, Robert

Sent: Friday, March 05, 2010 12:05 PM

To: Austin, Astra; Wan, Wendi

Subject: Dr. Phil - Palo Alto

Astra,

Thank you for talking to us yesterday, we appreciate and thank you in advance for listening and acting on the very real concerns and dangers of how teen suicide is discussed in the media. As requested we have put the most salient concerns in this email for you and the senior executives. We have two chief concerns:

The risk of perpetuating Suicide Contagion:

Palo Alto is a community at high-risk for more suicides due to suicide contagion. Our most vulnerable teens (those perhaps with previous attempts or who are under medical care) need our protection right now -- and will for some time. We are doing everything in our power to reduce that risk -- which is the main reason it would not be prudent to involve Palo Alto -- or any other community currently undergoing this very serious phenomenon -- in the show.

There is compelling research cited by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention among others that news stories on suicide and or related to suicide when a community is facing a suicide cluster can perpetuate the crisis and compromise the integrity of the safety effort. This same research recommends a particular reporting approach that can actually be helpful in the effort to reduce suicide – see link

As a community trying to stop further deaths and heal, most of the stories about the tragic suicides have not been helpful. We urge you to focus on another community with a similar profile but without the added emotional fragility of a recent suicide cluster.

Please understand our reluctance to participate in the show should not suggest a reluctance to confront or deal with this issue. On the contrary, the Palo Alto community is working together, tirelessly, publicly and carefully on this issue. We are working closely with psychiatrists from Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford and community medical groups, school district professionals, parents and teens in our community, many non-profits such as the YMCA, Adolescent Counseling Services, Youth Community Services, City staff and officials along with many others, all focused on the health and wellness of youth and teens in our community.

Contributing to the myth that stress is a leading cause of suicide:

Based on our phone conversation yesterday, the current frame of the show appears to link "pressures and stress" on teens (in general) with suicide; this is an oversimplification of an extremely complex issue and research shows may actually be harmful. A focus on the role of mental health disorders and suicide risk would be extremely beneficial to suicide prevention efforts across the nation.

Moreover, we completely agree that addressing teen stress is an important topic but the line between stress and suicide is often inaccurately linked. Put another way we are concerned that the show as defined to us yesterday may perpetuate a myth that stress (without other mental health issues) leads to suicide. From the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, "Over 80-90 percent of suicide victims have a significant psychiatric illness at the time of their death. These are often undiagnosed, untreated, or both. Mood disorders and substance abuse are the two most common" from the AFSP site .

If teen stress and teen suicide are topics of interest to the Dr Phil show we applaud this focus and support in helping viewers understand the issues. But we recommend separating the discussion between stress and suicide to allow time for the complexities of both topics to be covered effectively.

Helpful resources:

www.afsp.org/

www.sprc.org/traininginstitute/

Specific to guidelines for media reporting on suicide:

www.afsp.org

Also, Karen Marshall from the American Association of Suicidology has agreed to be a resource to you on these issues. Her email is kmarshall@suicidology.org. ...

Lastly, these are the critical elements in helping to not incite further incidents. Recommendations developed by the CDC, WHO, AFSP, SAMHSA, NIMH, Office of the Surgeon General, American Assoc. of Suicidology, Annenberg Public Policy Center - http://www.sprc.org/library.

* Please do not include the names of students who have recently died by suicide.

* Please do not mention the means (train) by which they died.

* Please do not specify the location where the suicide cluster has occurred.

* Please do not describe or show any memorial activities related to the suicides.

* Please do not show pictures or video of the train or tracks.

Thank you,

Rob de Geus

City of Palo Alto

Related stories:

Parents, school leaders rebuff 'Dr. Phil' queries

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Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by caring citizen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 5, 2010 at 5:47 pm

It is inappropriate for the Dr. Phil show to sensationalize this sad and serious subject matter. Good move Rob.


Like this comment
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Is he actually sensationalizing the recent suicides...or trying to find a solution and/or message that will resonate with the families of teens in Palo Alto?


Like this comment
Posted by Helpful Realist
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 6:37 pm

This guy is part of the PROBLEM not the solution. He does not want dialogue and he does not want a search for truth by normal, sane, caring people. He wants to dictate the discussion from a centralized source of governmental power -- and then blame any further suicides on those same normal, sane, caring people who are so brash as to discuss this and share their wisdom.

That is BALONEY that stress is not related to suicides. How dare this guy attempt to take what is obviously true and nothing more than common sense - and to turn it around 180 degrees?

Stress is linked to suicides. YES!! Anybody with any common sense intuitively knows this. Yet we are told that we know nothing and that only the 'experts' know better. NONSENSE.

The sooner that individuals and families get to the true issues behind their stress and their suicidal feelings, the better. This will never happen if they are told that it has nothing to do with stress and instead that they have a chemically-based emoitional issue and that they just need to find the right medication. HOGWASH!


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Posted by mom
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 5, 2010 at 6:51 pm




Thank you Project Safety net


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 6:58 pm

I stopped watching Dr. Phil years ago because of shows like this.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Dr? phil does not have a license to practice medicine nor a license to even practice family guidance, chiroprachty etc.

Why would we want to expose our children to this quack? to make him money and damage our kids?


Like this comment
Posted by The real sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Dr Phil is not practising medicine. He has a Ph D in psychology. He is not a quack.


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Posted by Helpful Realist
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I can think of absolutely nothing more heart wrenching than a child's suicide. It is a cry out to us to change things. We will not change things if we pretend that everything is fine with our culture and instead we blame it on the imagined child's chemically-based emotional problems.

Children do not know how to deal with stress. That does not mean that the stress is not very very real. Just because you may have been subjected to the same insane stresses in your upbringing does not make them any better or 'normal'.

Why do we continue to pretend we do not hear the children's screams for help to change the social stresses? Instead we blame the very children for being emotionally imbalanced. It is sad. 'Thank you government agencies' indeed.


Like this comment
Posted by Gordon
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 5, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Dr. Phil isn't even a real doctor. He has a Ph.D but not an MD.




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Posted by Robo David Bowie
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 5, 2010 at 8:57 pm

I really think we should do the show! We will be able to talk about and learn about what we are all doing wrong! Dr. Phil is a professional and knows what to do! We just need to let him help us!


Like this comment
Posted by The real sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 9:12 pm

People with PhDs are " real doctors" the degree confers upon you the title of doctor. Phil has never claimed to be an MD


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Posted by Wife of M.D.
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 5, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Dentists even claim they are "doctors". Whether Phil has a PhD or M.D., there are quacks in every profession. There are quack PhDs, quack dentists, quack M.D.s.

You want a quack M.D, show? Watch Dr. Oz. Oversensationalized show. It's a sure way to become a hypochondriac by watching his show.

I think it is fantastic that the show has Palo Alto in a panic. Skelly is doing nothing to address the academic rigor here. He needs to address the situation rather than simply offering therapy for students.

Thank you to the brave souls who will be on the show.


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Posted by Chronic Cough
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:01 pm

How about Chiropractors are they real Doctors? Or are they what Pro Wrestling is to UFC?


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Posted by saleha
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 5, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Yes, we should give these children privacy. This is not something that should go out to the media. If the Dr. Phil show wants to help the community, and the children affected here...do so privately. Not in a national forum for exposure and ratings. Although a lot of people watch Dr. Phil, and perhaps he has helped a lot of people, but I think that with Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc., etc., people's lives have been over exposed anyway...maybe we should rethink our technology and the harm that it could be doing here...maybe this is all part of the "problem". Life should be simple, and we don't make it simple here in Silicon Valley.


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Posted by Wife of M.D.
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 5, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Oh, yes, forgot about chiropractors. They have their place (cracking backs), but many try to do more than they should. For instance, chronic pain can also be solved by M.Ds who practice pain medicine. These M.D.s (anesthesiologists) can inject medicine into patients to relieve pain (disclaimer: cannot guarantee results, however - depends on the technique of the physician). Again, there are good and bad in every field.

There are also osteopaths, which practice more alternative medicine than M.Ds.

Often people plan to become M.D.s and when they cannot compete, they become other "doctors".


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 6, 2010 at 12:16 am

Wife of M.D., you made me laugh! I think people are against this in part because they are ashamed that their marvelous, high end university town's image will be tarnished by the suicide situation going national. Growing up in PA suicide was also a problem and it's heartbreaking that it has gotten worse.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2010 at 1:40 am

I'm sorry, but suicide does not happen purely because of stress. Of course, a level of stress is often required to tip the balance in someone who is already struggling. But in average students, stress equals crankiness, fatigue, PMS-like symptoms. Suicide is what happens when someone with a mental illness feels internal agony at such unbearable levels that literally having to face one more day is an unspeakable hardship, let alone showing up to school. Although school can push an already vulnerable person to that point, what they need isn't less homework, but someone to get them help. And shame on Dr. Phil for turning such an intimate issue on the individual level into just another sound bite-worthy "epidemic."


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Posted by Who Suffers and Who Profits?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2010 at 6:57 am

I applaud our local representatives for being quick to respond in such a thoughtful and sensitive way for our children.

But if the Dr. Phil show is to go on, my question is who will sit in the "stress" expert seat?

Hard to imagine anyone other than Palo Alto's own Denise Clark Pope who wrote a book about 4 stressed high school kids and has been on tour with it for almost a decade.

Ms. Pope has never had a child in public school, let alone a Palo Alto high school.

Her sensitivity, motive, and methods have been called into serious question and are of great concern to many locally because of a series of recent emails and snail mail sent on her behalf to all Gunn families asking parents to give her private access to their children (parents consent but cannot be in the room or know what will be asked of or said to their children) so she can "talk" to them about their stress and publicize (read: sell books about) her scientific interview results.

On the topic of credentials, Ms. Pope is often introduced as Professor Pope when, despite almost 10 years at Stanford, she remains an invited lecturer who does not sit on Stanford's permanent faculty. Her "Dr." is from a PhD in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education (aka philosophy of naming courses, optimizing seating arrangements, etc) with an undergraduate English major. No background in neuroscience, psychiatry or psychology, which perhaps explains why she doesn't cite the ample scientific research on depression and stress, some of it out of Stanford, which contradicts her conclusions.

I'm not usually such a cynic. Ms. Pope's overarching message about balance is a good one. But if she or anyone from Palo Alto participates in the TV show knowing full well how it will add to contagion, it should be clear to all that it's more for fame (and money) than concern.



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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Palo Alto
on Mar 6, 2010 at 7:22 am

Paul Losch is a registered user.

Paul Losch from the CPA Parks and Recreation Commission here.

I participated in last Saturday's community meeting about how we foster a safe environment for our youth. Lots of good ideas, and also a great deal of ambiguity. This is a very difficult issue that affects the welfare of all our youth in Palo Alto.

I remember when I was in high school that there was a series of deaths under various circumstances in my junior year. It made us numb as students, and it never was addressed by school administrators as an issue students were concerned about.

Having such issues sensationalized on a cheesy TV show like Dr. Phil denigrates the sincere effort youth and adults alike in Palo Alto are taking to address the welfare of our teens when they are not attending school.

Dr. Phil needs to take a look at his ethical responsibilities as a Psycholigist. Having a TV program about what we are dealing with here in Palo Alto can do irreperable harm to many. I fail to see what the upside is.


Like this comment
Posted by WhyAfraid?
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2010 at 7:29 am

Open communication is what's needed, for both anxious parents and depressed students. Sweeping problems under the rug isn't going to make them go away. "Dr. Phil" is a show for concerned people to get together and discuss issues. Others can listen and make their own judgment. Can those advocating against the show guarantee there will be less suicides? NO! And can they predict more with the airing of the show? NO! I hope enough people will show up for the show and let everyone find out if we actually know what the problems are and whether we can do something about them.


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Posted by Fine Line
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 6, 2010 at 7:43 am

To why afraid? The risk to our most vulnerable young people is very real. It is also true that Dr. Phil could use his show for good - but he could absolutely cover this issue without bringing in communities that have been or are in contagion. The risk is real.


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Posted by Helpful Realist
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 7:57 am

Let's get real. Let's get so real that nobody can handle it.

The reason that the kids are killing themselves is that they feel like failures. The reason they feel like failures has to do both with our society and our specific parents.

We are so obsessed with 'success' that failure is not tolerated. The media fawns over 'successful' people - meaning rich people, regardless of how they 'earned' their money. The fact that someone has more money than someone else makes that person more 'successful'. What a bunch of bullsh*t.

More importantly to students, especially at Gunn, 'success' is defined as academic credentials or achievements. An MD is 'successful' because he/she was able to memorize stuff well enough to get an MD. So what?

The combination of parents and media/culture fawning over 'success' based on nonsense like degrees and money has created the suicides. If the parents at Gunn High had a different set of values then their kids would not feel like failures.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 6, 2010 at 8:02 am

It's interesting that even a national program like Dr. Phil "knows" about the Palo Alto suicides. I think shining light on a dark, secret, and private area, will give a wake up call to everyone in Palo Alto. EVERYONE, to do something. It's good that this national program has taken an interest in shining light on a problem. Folks, we have a problem here in Palo Alto. Suicide is a very terrible thing, very terrible. I think we in Palo Alto have not done enough to address the problem. Our city government wanting to keep it a secret is just that. They think holding town hall meetings and putting police to watch at the train crossings is going to solve the problem. Give me a break. Dr. Phil is giving our community a wake up call. Good.


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Posted by Mom 1st, MD 2nd
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2010 at 8:03 am

The point is not whether this Phil guy is a 'real doctor'.

One can receive doctorate degrees in many disciplines, some in the realm of clinical medicine (medicine, chiropractic, osteopathic, pharmacy, dentistry, etc.) some not (English, Philosophy, French, etc.)

Clinical Psychologists who have PhDs (and so are doctors) and years of clinical training can be of enormous benefit in treating patients and families who need counseling and guidance. In fact, in today's climate of poor insurance reimbursement for mental health services, they are often the only people available to provide 'talking therapy' which has clinically proven benefits in treating depression and anxiety.

I am sure that there are psychologists in the Palo Alto community that already are working on this problem, some as part of the community effort and some working privately with the affected families.

The issue here in my mind is the TV show/sensational aspects of having this discussion in this forum. For all I know, Dr Phil is a perfectly good clinical psychologist and if he were offering to come help with the ongoing community efforts, it might even be helpful.

But making this into a popular media event seems not only disrespectful but also potentially dangerous. Do we want every depressed teen in the country to start seeing the local train tracks as their own permanent 'solution'? I think this would be truly irresponsible.


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Posted by hopepaloalto
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 8:24 am

Whoever participates should realize that it might not turn out they way they think. This is a very emotional topic. People may say things that they regret.

In theory participants could demand that Dr. Phil not to discuss the deaths or cause of death at all. This would be the least that he could do from a public safety point of view. The best that he could do would be not to run the show. However, participants should realize that the show might not turn out the way that they think.

The producer for Dr. Phil called me to ask me to participate about a week ago, the show that he suggested was about "coming together" over the deaths. He said that it wouldn't be about the deaths but about "coming together." I could see that there was no way to discuss one without the other. He was just saying what he thought I wanted to hear.

It appears that Dr. Phil has changed the topic to student stress and the "toll" it takes. This is a topic that everyone wants to discuss because so much change is needed, but I suspect that they changed the "topic" to get guests but the show they are planning is likely to be what was described to me. By the way, the "toll it takes" part probably gives them enough wiggle room to discuss the deaths.

With respect to the link between stress, pressure, and the recent deaths, it extremely unfair to speculate as to the underlying causes of the recent deaths. We shouldn't point fingers and place. We don't have all the facts. Since "the facts" are a matter of family privacy, we should mind our own business by working to improve our community in ways that it needs improving. We do not need to use the deaths as an excuse to a address long term problem that didn't just start last year. It is high time that we looked at our value system and made some serious changes. We need to stop placing such a high value on having perfect grades, perfect scores, and attending so-called "good" colleges (high stress places where people drink too much). We need to forge new paths to success. Our kids have the power to reduce the pressure on themselves, by making reasonable choices. We can join together to stand by them. We need to give them the strength to do what is best for them. They can say "no thanks" to SATs, APs, and all nighters. We can say "no thanks" to people seeking to make a national spectacle out of personal tragedies.

If given the chance to speak out for positive change, I would like to take it but not if the price of admission is public safety.



Like this comment
Posted by PJ
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 6, 2010 at 8:44 am

The problem here is that Americans do not seem to get it that death is a part of life. Most cultures mourn the dead, honor the dead then move on. So long as we continue to beat ourselves up about these suicides the more copycat suicides there will be because they garner attention. Palo Alto needs to be more low key and move on.


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Posted by Helpful Realist
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 8:59 am

We need more straight talk and less gobble-dee-guk.

HopeandChangePaloAlto says:

"Our kids have the power to reduce the pressure on themselves, by making reasonable choices."

Are you kidding? We are talking about high school kids who have been immersed in a set of values all their lives. They do not have the perspective to understand that there is another way to look at things. And if they are told this, it is not nearly so simple as to put that into practice.

Please let us stop putting the responsibility on the kids. Haven't we messed them up enough? The original article implies the kids had mental disorders. That is cruel to blame the kids for their own situations. It is harder to point the fingers at ourselves, is it not?


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Posted by Helpful Realist
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 9:02 am

After thinking it over, I think PJ is right.

The sucicides are just part of life. I am not going to spend any more time thinking about this or trying to help the suffering kids. I am just going to move on.

Good luck everyone ---

HR


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Posted by paparent
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 6, 2010 at 9:09 am

The show is good at exposing the personal matters over the live network and letting the participants down. IMO


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Posted by hopepaloalto
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 9:14 am

Please understand that I am not blaming kids in any way. Please don't take what I said to blame kids. I just meant that the schools do let students have some important choices as to what classes they take. Students do pick which standardized tests that they will take. It may be that in some cases that the parents are actually doing the picking, but students should be encouraged to do what is best for them. Parents need to stand by students so that the students feel empowered to make the choices that they want to make. I do believe that most students will make reasonable/good choices if they are given correct information and parent support. We should come together as parents to help make that happen. That is all that I meant.


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Posted by Fine Line
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 6, 2010 at 10:39 am

No one from the City appears to have asked Dr. Phil to NOT do the show. In fact, according to quptes from the news stories, the City actually supplied the Dr. Phil producers with the same experts and references that PA is using. They made a heartfelt "ask" to not recruit participants from PA - for very good (documented) reason. Creates a high risk situation for our most vulnerable teens.

The show can/likely will, go on - and, if Dr. Phil is willing/able, a show that raises awareness of the mental health issues involved with suicide could be very helpful. But Palo Alto's participation is not a requirement for the show to do or be "good".

This is not about sweeping the issue under the rug. This community is working actively and diligently to save lives. One of those actions is to ask the Dr. Phil Show to recruit show participants from a community that is not in contagion.


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Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2010 at 11:52 am

A lot of the so-called "achievement" of certain teens in this city is owing to parent-paid years of costly prepping, tutoring and strategic planning. Many kids are "projects" for their parents. Others are disillusioned by this.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 11:56 am

Question: If it is inappropriate and sensational for Dr. Phil to focus on Palo Alto, then exactly what on his show is appropriate? I don't watch the show but I have seen some parts of it, and to me these subjects just do not seem to go well with commercial TV, that is what ends up sensationalizing them.

So ... (big jump) if commercial TV cannot focus on anything newsworthy and serious without sensationalizing it ... why do we have commercial TV? Answer, because it sells products, and people are addicted to it over time with sensationalism and violence and fairytales.

So ... should Dr. Phil be urged to do a program on commercial TV and how we can have a society that works when we have a big black pit of idiocy that we constantly try to suck people in to? I don't think what we are doing now works, and the commericalism that runs everything sabotages anything that challenges it, yet refuses or is unable to address the deeper needs/problems of the society because the well off are well enough off not to be motivated to care or do anything.


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Posted by Robo Dewei Bowei
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 6, 2010 at 2:06 pm

You people are very mis-informed!

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

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

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

4. Gunn parents and students should do the show. The city has already failed 5 times, we should know by now that it cant do shit.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 2:31 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by because
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 2:42 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Don't do it
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2010 at 4:02 pm

It is disheartening to read that people take that sleazy, commercial-centered, peep show seriously. Last night the show had big closeups of a pretty teenager with lots of eye makeup as her eyes filled with tears. Gotta have those tears. The story line and the production values are so predictable.
Even Dr. Edell, the (real) doctor on KGO, disparages Dr. Phil. (and Oprah's medical advice as well).
I watch it for entertainment once in a while, but I feel talked-down to. Hard to believe anyone would want to be a part of it, except maybe people who want to be on TV.


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Posted by What happened to KS's post?
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 6, 2010 at 4:27 pm

WAit a sec..what happened to KS's commentary? It was the most informed and thoughtful post I have seen on this subject with media..ever.

I should have copied it to my computer..

Please re-post it KS. Something went wrong, it was QUITE relevant to whether or not to go on Dr. Phil.


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Posted by Robo David Bowie
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2010 at 5:30 pm



Mr phil does not have a license to practice psychotherapy.

He wants to build his family business wealth-- fine-- but not at our kids lives expense.

All the people he has talked to in Palo Alto have had to sign legal documents exonerating phil from any and all liability whatsoever.

This project should be stopped, write to advertisers on his show threatening boycott of their goods and services

If enough parents do this phil will back down-- he is only interested in the money at the end of the day.


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Posted by HPA
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Friday - March 12, 2010

I just looked at the Dr. Phil web site. Please let me know if I am wrong. As far as I can tell, this seems to be the description of the show:

What's Wrong with Our Teens?

From the death of Marie Osmond’s son, Michael, to the rise in teen train suicides, the recent spate of young people taking their own lives has parents and teachers desperate for answers. Learn the warning signs and what you can do to help a teen on the brink. Then, Hill Harper, co-star of CSI: NY, has a candid conversation with a group of teens to find out what causes some kids to commit this tragic act. And, Dr. Phil features the documentary Race to Nowhere, which examines the pressure many teens feel to succeed. It's an important Dr. Phil you don't want to miss!


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Posted by The real sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Dr Phil is not practising psychotherapy. How does Sharon know what people had to sign? Did she sit in on the interviews? Why is Sharon afraid of people exercising their rights to speak to whomever they want? What does palo alto have to hide. Leave dr Phil alone, Sharon. He has become your latest target


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Posted by concerned for kids
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2010 at 7:05 pm

At the very least, Dr. Phil needs to remove the reference to "train suicides".


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Posted by exhi
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 6, 2010 at 9:50 pm

the ''point'' is,this has gotten national attention. it ios something related to life in the united states. no ect EVERY thing abopu of ''mental health experts'' can repress these circumstances. the same ''experts'' that promote drugs as the ONLY ''answer''. there are thjose on drugs who have attempted suicide because drugs cause PHYSICAL damage that affect EVERYTHING ablout human life.


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Posted by Gunslinger
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Our kids are not undernourished and lacking in physical activity. We may even think we're feeding them right, but they're often lacking in omega oils, b12, and a litany of other nutrients. We think we give them salad, but it's overproduced and vitamin dead. We think we're giving them healthy bread, but enriched means they've sucked out 100% of the nutrients and replaced 10%. These are just some examples. We are all suffering from this, but our kids with their growing bodies are suffering the most. They need to be more active, more playful. They need less homework thus.

More than anything we need to start a serious dialogue about how to fix our kids, because the so called experts in our community are not doing it. Keeping a lid on this has not stopped the suicides. As Phil says, "how's that working for ya?"


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Posted by Gunslinger
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2010 at 12:45 am

I meant to say our kids are undernourished and lacking in physical activity


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Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 7, 2010 at 9:41 am

I agree that "Dr. Phil" (beware of people who insist on titling themselves "Dr." followed by their nickname only) is exploiting the horrible events that have recently taken place, and that focusing in a sensationalistic way on youth suicides might make matters worse for some individuals, but on the other hand, I can't help but feel a touch of satisfaction that the wayward ethos of our community is going to be exposed, even in a small way.

I can't wait to be able to stop calling myself "A Palo Alto parent" and see my children safely into another environment, namely, college and adulthood. If our family had it to do over, we never would have moved here in the first place.


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Posted by Robo Dewie Bowie
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 7, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Gunslinger,

You are quite wrong!

If our kids are "undernourished"(in a rich American community, oh the irony!) then what about kids in Africa? China? India? South East Asia? You are quite confused there.

Also, our kids get plenty of exercise. Over 40% of Gunn students participate in team sports. Many also walk and bike to school. Dont forgot about the two years of mandatory PE


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Posted by Helpful Realist
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 7, 2010 at 3:06 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2010 at 5:55 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Helpful Realist
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 7, 2010 at 5:58 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Robotic Bowie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 7, 2010 at 6:22 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Tori
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 7, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Actually the show will be on March,12 ( not March, 14)


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2010 at 7:55 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Helpful Realist
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 7, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Good luck to everyone.

I have tried to help the young people suffering. My mind is clear. Good luck to all.


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Posted by Wife of M.D.
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 7, 2010 at 9:39 pm

@Helpful Realist: This is the third time on these two threads that you have thrown up the white flag.

We cannot change the environment in the homes but PAUSD can make changes to help relieve stress for students.


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Posted by Klara
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2010 at 9:56 pm


The people of Palo Alto have to be grateful to Dr Phill that he is
focusing on this problem instead of disputing his credentials.He might came up with some suggestions but for shore his reality check is needed.
Palo Alto is a sheltered community sometimes can be stagnant and for children under high stress and high expectations also quite depressing.
Think about environment and also how this might contribute to the problem.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2010 at 10:39 pm


phil has only two interests,

1/ratings and
2/money.

He does not care what damage he does to any community.

His circus is entertainment for the masses to sell adds and boost his multiple family businesses.

Fine if he makes money exploiting adult human misery-- but not at the expense of our kids lives.


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Posted by Let em show it.
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 7, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Unlike the articles that have appeared ON THIS WEBSITE, Dr. Phil will most likely not identify the victims by name or give any sort of eulogical attention. The producers are well aware of Palo Alto's perception of the phenomenon and will want to be respectful.
Could it be, perhaps, that Palo Alto (while it would never admit this to itself) doesn't want national press coverage as a place with an above average teen suicide rate? I mean gosh... It doesn't fit with the self projected image at all.
Stop worrying about the outside factors that may or may not influence this terrible trend and start focusing on MENTAL HEALTH. It never fails to amaze me how much people will go out of their way to blame FAMILY ISSUES on foreign influence.


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Posted by Gunslinger
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2010 at 9:18 am

Robo Dewie Bowie, are you the same as Robo David Bowie. Anywho, I made the point that eating food, even food we perceive as good, is not necessarily nourishing. I made the point that a lot of fruits and vegetables are devoid of nutrients in our modern society of agricultural overproduction and cut-corners mentality. I can go into great depth about this if you'd like. And don't talk to me about the kids in third world countries. I'm tired of all this relativity to Africa when I try to discuss the hardships of OUR children. And yes, the African kids are very depressed too. But Thats a totally different subject.

Oh wow, two whole years of mandatory PE, out of four. And a whole 40% of the kids do athletic activities? You do know that's less than half right?


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Posted by Wife of M.D.
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 8, 2010 at 9:36 am

Gunslinger, thanks for the laughs. I agree that we cannot compare America to Africa. What do you suggest? Multi-vitamins? All organic produce? Not everyone is loaded with $$$.

When I grew up, there were no good TV shows nor computers so we all went outside and hung around town till dinner. These days, with the safety issues and the PAUSD homework loads in the secondary schools, parents have to make an effort to have their children exercise. We have our kids treadmill each day. It is a part of their daily routine.


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Posted by Gunslinger
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2010 at 9:54 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by local gurl
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 8, 2010 at 9:59 am

When my son was in middle school in Palo Alto, I had to go to his teacher and tell her that he was NOT going to do 3 hours of homework a night. I limited him to ONE focused hour, unless he was studying for a test and wanted to spend more time, and that was it. You would have thought I was telling her I was sentencing my son to death. He graduated from high school with decent grades, went to an excellent private college (but not the Ivy League) and graduated from there as well. In his "spare" time, he got enough sleep (essential for healthy growth and development), participated in athletics, stayed in excellent physical condition, and is now a healthy, happy, well-educated adult. He went to Gunn and didn't participate in AP classes or competition for grades, but being in that environment did affect his self confidence and self esteem. Looking back, he tells me that the environment wss "crazy" and that he wouldn't want his kids to have to go through it.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 8, 2010 at 10:16 am

Interesting about the number of high schoolers doing sports. Do any of you realise how hard it is for a teenager to get onto a sports team for a sport they like. I know that we have Varsity Sports in school, but take the popular sports, if you can't get onto the team, what do you do? There is no 2nd tier for someone who loves the sport but is not passionate or very good at it. Whether it is inside school or in various outside school leagues like Babe Ruth, Little League Juniors/Seniors, or NJB, except for those who are good they have to stop competitive sports. Added to this, trying to get a court or a field for a pick up game with friends is really impossible as they are fully booked for organized sports, or the parks have too many people for active ball games to be safe except in the areas where the organized sports are occupying.

As our town grows and our high schools get bigger numerically, there will still be the same number of spots on the football team, the basketball team and the baseball team. Not all kids want to play badminton or even lacrosse! Perhaps it is time to think of ways to get B teams playing - but we don't have the gym or field space!

Teens lacking in exercise is a problem and the size of the schools is not going to make it any easier for the average joe to play a sport and stay healthy.


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Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 8, 2010 at 10:42 am

I hope Dr. Phil and his supporters are aware of the real risk of such shows leading to more suicides:
Web Link

Yes freedom of speech is sacred, but so is the life of a child.


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Posted by Linda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2010 at 11:04 am

My GOODNESS!!!!
Does Palo Alto think the situation of teen suicides can be solved by using Palo Alto and Standford professionals only?
I am sure we are not the only city, town or state that has found itself in this horrible prodicument.
For goodnes sakes, we have a guard stationed at the rail road tracks. What does this tell us? We have a serious problem.

If Dr. Phil including GUNN High School in his piece will bring a brighter light to this horrible situation and cause the state and nation to have more discussions on this topic and it saves one childs life it is worth it.
When some one decides to committ suicide I don't care what is said or done, unless you can stop them in that moment they are going to try and kill themselves.
Many Palo Altains live in a bubble thinking Palo Alto is this perfect world, well it is not.

There is racisim, prjudice, mental illness and suicide in our community and we need to all the help we can get to help our kids.

I believe Palo Alto needs to stop worrying about it's image and focus more on our kids.
Unless you have lost a child to suicide stop fussing and let Palo Alto get all the help it needs to help our kids.




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Posted by Lividdavid
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2010 at 11:21 am

And what's more: Palo Alto Express split an infinitive! ("City asks Dr. Phil Show to not focus on Palo Alto"). Shame, shame!


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2010 at 12:02 pm



The producers and general counsel of CBS are now well aware that running the show as planed is against all expert, evidenced based professional advice.

They are also aware of the risk to the CBS brand and have told phil of the risk to his personal brand and income.

He knows that if he runs his show and the predicted tragic consequences take place-- then phil will be history as a brand and his show will canceled.

There is no free speech right on commercial TV and never has been.
There are many restriction on what you can say and show and at what times you can say and show it.

The Supreme Court has been very clear on the limits of free speech--

" The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.

The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent."
in Schenck v. United States

Experts have provided very credible evidence that this phil circus "creates a clear and present danger" for minors in Palo Alto and elsewhere.


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Posted by local gurl
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 8, 2010 at 12:08 pm

This issue isn't even CLOSE to the standard set in Schenck v US. The clear and present danger standard is a very high bar and should remain so.


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Posted by DAISY
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2010 at 12:08 pm

I can not believe that you people who live here in our great city of Palo Alto can not except that our children need help. If you like Dr. Phil or not at least he is trying to help the problem. Spending money to put a guard on the tracks is a waste of money. They can not see at night and that is when all of these terrible sucides have happened. Even if he does mention out great city of Palo Alto so what? We need to do something about this and no one here seems to be doing much so maybe it's time we got some outside help. To think the train is a problem is crazy if they didn't do it that way they would have found another way


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Posted by The Real Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2010 at 12:23 pm

"The producers and general counsel of CBS are now well aware that running the show as planed is against all expert, evidenced based professional advice."

Sharon--how are they well aware of this? who has contacted them/ WHich expert professional advise has advised against running the show. Let's see some facts to back up your claims

"They are also aware of the risk to the CBS brand and have told phil of the risk to his personal brand and income."
When did this happen? Who is they? Who told Dr Phil that his brand and income was at risk? Facts please.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

"There is no free speech right on commercial TV and never has been."
And you base this statement on what? Are you advocating censoring his show? Based on what?

"There are many restriction on what you can say and show and at what times you can say and show it."
That may be true, but a show that contains interviews with consenting parents and children should hardly be censored.



The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent."
Boy, are you stretching now, Sharon. There is no evidence of any clear and present danger and it is not even close to the "yelling fire in a theatre" standard. If you feel so strongly you should go to court and file an injunction against the show. See how far you get

"Experts have provided very credible evidence that this phil circus "creates a clear and present danger" for minors in Palo Alto and elsewhere. "
Which experts have provided this evidence? when was it provided? How come none of the papers have reported this "credible evidence"?


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 8, 2010 at 2:06 pm

> Experts have provided very credible evidence that this phil circus
> "creates a clear and present danger" for minors in Palo Alto and
> elsewhere.

And what about all of the media attention that has preceded "Dr. Phil's" attempt to bring national attention to this problem? If "Dr. Phil" is likely to cause kids all over the country to commit suicide, what about the newspapers and TV stations that have carried articles/segments about these events here in Palo Alto? Are they to be held accountable too?

> There is no free speech right on commercial TV and never has been.

This sticks out like a sore thumb! It seems if the Palo Alto City Manager can effectively silence a national TV program from talking about this matter, then he can do the same with every media outlet in the country the next time there is a police brutality event here in Palo Alto .. with the expressed consent of people like this poster.

This is very frightening .. knowing that people in this town would openly support press/media censorship with such ease ..




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Posted by fjamesc
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2010 at 9:02 pm

fjamesc is a registered user.

I am the editor of "Suicide Prevention News and Comment" and wanted to share the post there about your interactions with the Dr. Phil Show. Please see "Community, Prevention Experts Influence 'Dr. Phil' Episode" at Web Link ... which begins with the paragraph:

"I consider Friday’s episode of the Dr. Phil Show -- titled 'Teens Under Pressure' -- a case study of sorts, for it shows that a constructive dialogue is occurring among suicide prevention experts, communities, and the media. The process that shaped the show’s content could be an indication that community-focused suicide prevention is gaining traction in America."

Franklin
Web Link


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