Community Notebook: Father of Palo Alto teen who died by suicide to give talk on mental health

Parent seeks to raise awareness, start conversations

The father of a Gunn High School student who died by suicide in 2015 will be giving a public talk on Sunday, May 15, to raise awareness about mental health.

TC Lee said in an interview Tuesday that he felt compelled to publicly share his story not as an expert, but to offer one person's experience with loss and mental health.

"My motivation is really just to share my personal experience," he said. "I'm not an expert. I don't claim to be an expert. But at least what I see, I want to let people know so they can be aware."

Lee plans to talk about the role that families and the home play in supporting young people, his own path of recovery from loss and mental health in general. He hopes that speaking publicly about these issues will help bring the fight against mental illness to the same level of engagement and awareness as physical diseases, like cancer.

People are "fighting it (cancer), facing it, finding a cure," he said. "Now, cancer is gradually under control. Mental disease is the same thing. How can we control it? How can we fight it?

"First is that we don't have a solution, but we have to face it," he said.

His talk, titled "Out of Darkness," will take place 7-9 p.m. at the First Christian Church, 2890 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

For more information, email First Christian Church Pastor Dan McClure at or call 650-327-4188. McClure urged people interested in attending to arrive early to assure parking and seating.


Any person who is feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal is urged to call 1-800-784-2433 to speak with a crisis counselor. People in Santa Clara County can also call 1-855-278-4204.

Links below provide more resources where one can receive help:

Guest opinion: How to help those in crisis

Resources: How to help those in crisis

Q&A about mental health: Local experts offer their advice, guidance


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62 people like this
Posted by Mac clayton
a resident of Community Center
on May 10, 2016 at 4:24 pm

A brave and good thing, Mr Lee.

30 people like this
Posted by Thank you
a resident of Downtown North
on May 10, 2016 at 8:27 pm

I so thank you for taking this tragedy and sharing your experience.

38 people like this
Posted by Sarah1000
a resident of Los Altos
on May 10, 2016 at 9:22 pm

Sarah1000 is a registered user.

Thank you so much for coming forward to share your family's story. As human beings, we all have minds as well as bodies. Preventive care and treatment of illness should be readily available for both our minds and our bodies. Sending you much love for Sunday.

52 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2016 at 10:28 am

I feel for those afflicted by mental health and I feel sorry about Mr. Lee's loss.

I'm concerned that the bigger picture is being missed here. It is now a normal occurrence that a HS student within the Palo Alto school district commits suicide. This is why the railroad tracks have guards 24/7 - or at least some of them do.

I went to HS and there were never this many suicides in the span of a few years.

The bigger picture has to be around our community and the amount of pressure parents and schools are putting on these young teenagers. It's as if the HS students in the area of brainwashed to believe that if they aren't the next Mark Zuckerberg then they are a failure... that if they don't get into Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Notre Dame, then they are a failure.

Parents need to guide their kids through the hardships of adolescents - not pressure them into becoming the next best thing. Why do you think so many millennials tend to think they are so special, so important, that the world literally revolves around them?

Unfortunately, the San Francisco Bay Area is the epitome of stress. Everything compounds on itself because of the economics of the area. How much is the mortgage? How much does it cost to put your kid into daycare? How much does the next thing cost? How much is your annual salary and can you afford to even go get a bite to eat? You know why going out to eat is so expensive in the Bay Area? Because that restaurant needs to pay its rent and its workers a living wage to be able to live in the Bay Area. How many more people are going to move here because they got a new job at Apple/Google and can pay a $4,000 - $8,000 a month rent? Locals are being priced out. Teenagers are feeling this pressure bleed into their life because their parents are so stressed.

When was the last time you allowed time to pass slowly? When was the last time you stopped to smell the roses? Life in the Bay Area is in a constant 5th gear and we are all "red lining" our engines.

Mr. Lee, I'm sorry for your loss and that your child is a victim of mental health. But I wonder how many of these suicides can be attributed to just mental health and not the pressure of the Bay Area.

17 people like this
Posted by Julie armitano
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 11, 2016 at 10:32 am

He is brave to do that.
That is a good thing he will talk.

18 people like this
Posted by Arun
a resident of College Terrace
on May 11, 2016 at 10:45 am

Hats off to TC Lee for doing this.

41 people like this
Posted by mutt
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 11, 2016 at 11:03 am

There were suicides in the 1990's that I know of when my kids were at Gunn, but unless it happens in a public place, like on the RR Tracks, there is no publicity. Last year a young 20's man from my neighborhood shot himself, but he went up into the hills to do it, so there was never a word in the newspaper. In Saratoga the students don't have RR Tracks, but there are a remarkable number of fatal car "accidents" for HS students.
Mental health is a huge problem for many -- not just in Palo Alto. Suicide is the leading cause of death for college students. Web Link Too much pressure!

25 people like this
Posted by bill1940
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 11, 2016 at 11:04 am

This brings me to tears. Such a beautiful gesture that will certainly help those who have children, or as I do, grandchildren in the PA school district.

Bless you TC Lee, bless you.

15 people like this
Posted by Jill Cooper
a resident of Woodside
on May 11, 2016 at 11:18 am

This takes tremendous strength, but is an extremely important topic that needs warrants more awareness. Mental health issues in adolescents are more common than many people realize. Stress is a contributing factor, but it's often more complicated. Thank you, Mr. Lee.

25 people like this
Posted by ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on May 11, 2016 at 11:40 am

Dear Concerned,

I agree with you but you will find that the points you bring up will also intersect with what Mr. Lee brings to the table. Although mental illness will be part of the dialog, I would imagine he will also bring your points about the high-pressured culture into the conversation as well. He graciously came to one of our PTSA meetings at Gunn following his son's death and touched on his profile as a supposedly successful Stanford PhD engineer. I hope he will have more to say about that in the context of our greater achieving culture.

As you cited, there are many interacting variables in the unhealthy stress equation: Silicon Valley culture, schools/teachers, parents, peers, and establishing a self-identity. As parents--and I think this is the message Mr. Lee might touch upon--we parents have the opportunity to notice changes, enter into discussions, and add balance as needed, even if it means saying no to supposed opportunities. We parents need to honestly assess our own contribution to stress and know that we can do something about it, and find other parents who feel the same way. I agree with you about the money issue--the rents are unimaginable and there is way way too much focus put on money, even on the fund-raising in schools.

More than ever, our kids need strong parental support to get through this difficult stage of life. Unlike a female elephant who will always be surrounded by her "aunties", becoming an adult human can be a lonely process for some. Yes, they need to go through some of it alone, but they should also know that we are on their "team," and will be there for them when the lion attacks!

47 people like this
Posted by It's Everywhere
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 11, 2016 at 11:58 am

It's Everywhere is a registered user.

There are high school suicides everywhere, not just PA. It is on the East Coast, in Chicago suburbs, Texas, Florida, and in private schools as well as public.

Kids these days have too few years to learn far more information than ever! This is even more intense if the wish to go to college.

I really think kids need an extra year in high school, or maybe middle school instead, to better prepare them for the real world and a college education. Twelve years is simply insufficient for the ever-increasing amount of knowledge kids have to learn and process.

13 people like this
Posted by ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on May 11, 2016 at 12:02 pm

It's Everywhere…

Having more unstructured time away from pure academics would be good. I still like the idea of 1-2 years of public service expected after high school before college. I don't think the kids need more years in school as a means of taking in more information. The paradigm shift needs to be more on process and critical thinking that can be applied to any new endeavor. With those skills we don't have to be a walking encyclopedia anymore.

43 people like this
Posted by Long time resident
a resident of College Terrace
on May 11, 2016 at 12:47 pm

Thank you for sharing your insights with the public.
Among the Asian community, the older generation does not have too much understanding about mental health.
They need learn more in order to support their children.

22 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Our high school system here is a 4 year treadmill.

The Irish system of 6 years post elementary education now has instituted a transitional year which is non academic in nature. It contains many of the things that we have as electives or living skills. Here is a link to the description of what it does Web Link but basically it is a non academic year in the middle of high school where the students can take a breather between the more academic rigor of two sets of mandatory exams.

We have the most ridiculous number of tests, exams, etc. imaginable. We call them by different names, but the stresses of two sets of finals each year plus SATs SBacs, APs, PSATs, ARCs, and I am sure I am leaving some out, are stresses that put enormous pressure on students. On top of that, the race to get into college where the students are basically competing against each other for a few places allotted to each high school, can add to the stress. Concerned has hit on many other stresses just by living here, but even with the most supportive parents and school staff, our students are being tested to the limits.

I strongly feel that unless we (or they) can do something to get the colleges to stop this endless demand for better performance in academics as well as community service and "rounding" of life experiences, we are going to continue this pressure cooker existence we call high school. Our kids need to take a breather, time to smell the roses, time to have a couple of failures in their lives, and a time to just be kids.

Thank you Mr Lee for sharing your story. We need to hear this and so do our kids. But more than that, we need some changes. Perhaps this will be the catalyst for Palo Alto to be the leaders in getting some changes made by the system to completely overhaul our educational system. I can only hope and pray so. For all our students' sakes.

33 people like this
Posted by DES
a resident of Southgate
on May 11, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Palo Alto still does not appear to fully appreciate the scale of this epic tragedy. Our teen suicide rate is five times the national average for teenagers and roughly one per year, and no, suicide is NOT common in other high pressure academic environments across the country, many of which are more pressured than our own. We have lived near the Churchill crossing since 1988, and which means that in our tenure an entire classroom of children has killed themselves. I have listened to people ask "what is wrong with the kids? The Train? The Schools?" I have not heard people ask "What is wrong with the community? What is wrong with our values?"

The Price of Privilege, written by an eminent teen psychologist from Marin County, is the best book I have read on this topic. Bottom line -- it isn't the kids -- it's us. Our children are killing themselves.

7 people like this
Posted by Bababooey
a resident of Downtown North
on May 11, 2016 at 1:32 pm

I overheard two parents telling their kids to make sure "they do well for middle school admissions". Middle school admission??? Are you kidding me?! Those kids are doomed.

52 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 11, 2016 at 1:34 pm

Yes, there are suicides in other stressful schools but they aren't publicized. Monta Vista has pill suicides, Bellarmine has had suicides, Woodside, Mountain View . . .

But having experience in the PAUSD system, I do know that the quality of teaching has declined. In in the 80s, teachers were clear, deadlines were reasonable, homework was reasonable,structured, teachers were organized and available after school for students. AP classes and regular lane classes were easier - we never needed to turn to tutors for help because the work was reasonable and the teachers were available to help. There were NO unreasonable teachers as there are now. PAUSD was recognized for teaching English well (they would lecture everyday about how to write and we would have many short writing assignments returned within a week with teacher's corrections) but now, many teachers don't correct papers but resort to peer corrections or don't even return papers so students don't even know where they erred.

Let's be clear: There are reasonable teachers we appreciate who are clear and assign a reasonable quantity of homework, where the students learn, yet are not overwhelmed. Anyone can access an "A" in the class if they work for it, so they are still being prepared for college.

This is in contrast to teachers who make their classes so difficult that few can access As. They are ambiguous and expect college level work, which leads to massive tutoring and cheating, and every year we've had at least one of these. Some teachers simply don't teach and rely on the fact that students will hire tutors. And they are being paid $60,000-$120,000?

Sure, mental illness may be a factor in suicides, but there are plenty of depressed students who think about suicide all the time, but perhaps without mental illness, they don't commit suicide. Our students are stressed by our schools. If academics were a different environment, the stress would disappear.

Let's not forget the College Board, the racket who sponsors the SATs and AP Tests, and the colleges themselves, who require AP classes and extraordinary GPAs.

Our students need to build their resumes, excel on the SATs and AP Tests (if applicable). And where is the time for relaxing? Since we can't change the College Board or college admission requirements, we must change the tone of our schools.

It's an insult for people to state that all PAUSD parents want their children to attend elite schools. Look at the UC freshman profiles. Is it too much for us to want our children to attend our state schools? Some teachers are blocking access for us because of their personal issues and egos. And then there are the college counselors at Paly who try to convince students that CalState schools are okay when the students has "only" a 3.5 GPA. Web Link

UCB: 4.19 GPA
UCLA: 4.18
UCSD: 4.13
Davis: 4.07
SB: 4.05
Irvine: 4.04
Santa Cruz: 3.88
Riverside: 3.78
Merced 3.67

8 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 11, 2016 at 1:36 pm

@Bababooey: They are talking about private schools which have tests for admission, such as Menlo and Castilleja.

14 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 11, 2016 at 1:58 pm

> Mr. Lee, I'm sorry for your loss and that your child is a
> victim of mental health.
> But
> I wonder how many of these suicides can be attributed
> to just mental health and not the pressure of the Bay Area.

I am not sure what it is but there seems to be some kind of
subtext to that statement that there is not enough there to
tease out.

Are you trying to say that a certain number of people are
defective and bound to have problems anywhere they go,
or that their families are so dysfunctional that they were
driven to mental illness?

What is the point is trying to rule out the life pressures of
the Bay Area, or Palo Alto high schools specifically?

I just do not like the tone of that comment ... and it may just
be me interpreting it a certain way, but there is not that much
to wonder about when you compare the suicide rates in the
past in Palo Alto with today, or the suicide rates in other areas
with Palo Alto.

Having lived here and gone to school here since the 70's,
to me what stands out is that tough as life may have been then
it seemed like there was a job and a place to live for everyone.
Not only that but you did not have to be independently wealthy
to get your life moving by going to college. Foothill classes used
to be very inexpensive.

I keep reading these stories with an eye to how different today's
world is from when I was a kid. There are way too many ways to
go into in a short post online, but in almost every way I find that
the differences are isolating and terrorizing for kids these days,
and there is nowhere that someone can go to just be themselves
or get their fears acknowledged, because our reactionary system
cannot stand any criticism at all.

I believe that we have a systemic breakdown that is hidden
because "the system" as a whole can afford to cut off a lot of
people at the bottom and find glib superficial ways to blame them
or find fault with them or otherwise dismiss any responsibility for
what happened. The cheapest way is always with words, and
that is what I see most of here and elsewhere.

2 people like this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 11, 2016 at 2:16 pm

An open discussion is very positive - too often this happens and all of the details are kept secret. I don't see how you can address the problem without making a real effort to define the real issues. Many people have blamed the schools but that conclusion is based on assumptions. It would be useful to study all of the Santa Clara HS suicides over the last decade (Palo Alto and everywhere else) and look for similar patterns

18 people like this
Posted by Ruined by Society
a resident of College Terrace
on May 11, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Dear Concerned,

You agreed that while suicides can be attributed to mental health, they can also be attributed to societal stress. While at a glance, your statement seems perfectly logical, it is impossible and meaningless to draw a distinction between the two when the primary effect of societal pressure is in fact on mental health. One's environment has a major role in mental health – mental health issues are not a separate "disease" that is inherited or present at birth. For example, those who grow up in an unhealthy environment will be influenced in such a way that detriments their mental health.

As a high schooler myself, I notice that many of my peers do not take strong consideration for their mental health, when it is a truly integral part of a person's ability to be happy and function normally. Our main goals as a community should include spreading awareness for the importance of mental health and trying to resolve the stigmas associated with seeking help for mental issues.

23 people like this
Posted by DMom
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 11, 2016 at 2:49 pm

Thank you Mutt, your statement is well said. Every time I mention the fact that most cities face a similar suicide rate I am sushed. No one wants to hear it. I only mention that POV publicly because I feel like we talk about isuicide so much that it is becoming normally to our children. Every time our kids bike or drive by the re tracks and see the security they think of suicide. That is mentally unhealthy for everyone! I do admire Mr. Lee for sharing his personal tragedy because we can all listen and learn from each other.

5 people like this
Posted by Nayeli P.
a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Nayeli P. is a registered user.

@ Paly Alum: I think that you're onto something. I know that this is slightly off-topic, but I will bookend my post to explain why it is important to this discussion about teen suicide.

I agree that the College Board is a ridiculous racket that can even be unnecessarily costly to some poorer students. I had difficulty finding the money to pay for tests or send those scores to schools. My counselors weren't very helpful in pointing out how I could find funding to take those tests and send in the scores either. Some schools simply don't have staff or counselors who are knowledgeable in how to point underprivileged students to ways to avoid the costs.

I've often wondered why the higher education industry (for that is what it feels like -- an industry) uses a non-institutional test and high school GPA as a barometer for how well a student would "fit" into a particular college.

A school like Paly or Gunn obviously offers a better educational opportunity than most schools in middle class or impoverished areas. In fact, one could argue that an average middle-of-the-road student at one of these schools might have been ranked in the top five or ten percent at other less-privileged schools. This is because the quality of the institution and its teachers is often better than what you find at most public schools.

Thus, I would argue that schools like Palo Alto High or Gunn High shouldn't use a ranking system. Outside of the traditional valedictorian and salutatorian, I think that the traditional "honors" system based upon GPA would be a better than an actual rank -- because there is no limit on the number of students who can be included into such an achievement. Anyone with a GPA at or above 3.0 could be considered "cum meritus" and anyone at or above 3.5 could be "cum laude" (with even higher GPA standards used for "magna cum laude" and "summa cum laude").

This should suffice on a high school report that includes grades. A college -- including elite schools -- would still have access to the GPA and courses on the student's school report and transcript. That GPA could then be used by the college for their own admission consideration. However, the student wouldn't feel quite as hopeless in trying to achieve that cut-throat status of a limited number of students (e.g., top 5% or top 10%) because there is no limit in the number of students who could graduate with honors.

I imagine that the majority of Paly and Gunn students could be included in a system that distinguishes students with a 3.0/3.5 or higher GPA. Such inclusion in "merit" or "distinction" this would not result in a disappointing rejection based upon fraction but an inclusion based upon the cumulative efforts of the student.

I don't know the causes that contributed to a higher rate of suicide among high school students which has affected this community (and other communities). Perhaps there is a district analysis of those students who chose to end their lives -- including whether issues like class rank or performance on College Board or ACT Inc. standardized tests played a role.

However, I do think that the enormous weight of being in the top 5% or top 10% can be overwhelming in a community filled with the children of high achievers -- forever living in the shadow of academically successful parents.

Who knows? Palo Alto could be part of a trend away from a class ranking system that often leaves out amazing students by hundredths or thousandths of a point. A uniform, set honors system (based upon GPA) could be used by the district with a wider embrace of students who excel academically. The colleges won't be negatively affected either -- because they'll still have that GPA to use for their algorithm.

Like this comment
Posted by Nayeli P.
a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2016 at 4:21 pm

Nayeli P. is a registered user.

*Correction: My third paragraph should read...

I've often wondered why the higher education industry (for that is what it feels like -- an industry) uses a non-institutional test and high school CLASS RANKING as a barometer for how well a student would "fit" into a particular college.

28 people like this
Posted by so sad
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 11, 2016 at 6:07 pm

Thank you, Mutt and DMom.

The public (and sadly highly effective) method of suicide by train sadly puts too bright a spotlight on our community. When, in fact, youth suicide is a wider problem.

Mr. Lee, you are a brave and generous soul. Thank you for giving back to your community is this personal and magnanimous way.

Posted by spirituality?
a resident of Palo Alto Hills

on May 11, 2016 at 6:39 pm

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9 people like this
Posted by Watcher
a resident of Downtown North
on May 11, 2016 at 6:44 pm

Nayeli, Paly doesn't rank students. And students "with distinction" are only noted with a symbol next to the name on the graduation program, not on their transcripts. Our son had a symbol next to his name but there was no definition of "with distinction". He had higher than a 3.5 GPA. About one-third of the students had this symbol recognizing them.

If our district would teach based upon regular education standards instead of increasing the difficulty and expectations due to the high intellect of our students, there would be little stress and depression in our district. They can still prepare them for college without overwhelming them.

24 people like this
Posted by DES
a resident of Southgate
on May 11, 2016 at 6:48 pm

The law of regression to the mean says that the child of two exceptional parents is more likely to be normal than exceptional. How is a normal kid supposed to grow up in a community so effected by the universality of overachieving, self important and hypercompetitive adults?

First, I think we need a community where doing your best is ALWAYS good enough, and no teacher, admissions officer, or ETS service is qualified to measure your value as a person. Do we want our children to believe that their value is defined by their achievements, or by the quality of their character and how they treat one another?

Secondly, EVERYBODY needs a friend, and we need to teach our kids to befriend the friendless, stick up for the odd duck, and stand up to the bully, and not to exclude the kid who is "not popular". It means teaching our kids to worry about, and help, the one who is struggling, and to clue in authority figures when somebody is in trouble.

Finally, we need to stress cooperation over competition. Kids in study groups, helping one another, so that everybody succeeds and nobody gets left behind.

How close are we to this? Are we even working toward it? I can tell you that the hometown of my youth was much closer than Palo Alto.

50 people like this
Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on May 11, 2016 at 7:22 pm

Our deepest sympathies to Mr. and Mrs. Lee and their family. Unfortunately we will be in southern California attending the funeral of the 17 year old daughter of friends who died by suicide recently.

As a society we have to acknowledge the threat of suicide just as we acknowledge cancer, diabetes, and car accidents. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people under 24. Yet it is rarely acknowledged openly as the true threat that it is.

In my own experience of the loss of our 25 year old daughter to suicide in 2008, I think that suicide, particularly of a child, scares people. They don't want to talk about it openly because it is too frightening. The possibility that this could have been any of our children, that it could happen to your child -- that is just too scary. That leads to a lot of theories about parenting in an effort to feel safe. "If I have a theory that suicide is caused by 'too much pressure by parents' or working mothers or not giving a hug or not telling children that you love them enough, or well, whatever I can think of, then I can do that thing, and then my child will be safe." These theories are generally wrong and no one is actually "safe." But they also have the effect, however unintentionally, of adding to the burden of shame and guilt on the families -- families who are already blaming themselves and don't need any additional burden to carry.

We need to make science-based, informed decisions about suicide prevention policy. One thing is clear (and this affected my own child I have no doubt). Sleep is critically important. Not getting enough sleep -- whether due to homework, early classes, stress, or any other cause -- leads to increased suicidality and attempts. Another is that there are risk factors that combine to place kids at greater risk in addition to sleeplessness these include depression, other mental health disorders, substance abuse, bullying involvement, access to lethal means, sexual assault or abuse, cutting and self-harm, and above all -- a history of suicidal ideation and attempts. Any child who has attempted suicide once is at far greater risk of eventually dying by suicide.

One thing we can do is to effect changes where they can have a big effect. We should restrict access to firearms. We should continue means restriction around the tracks. We should invest in mental health and addiction treatment. We should reform schools to ensure students get adequate sleep. We should stop bullying and sexual harassment and assault. We should provide access to counselors through school-based mental health providers for all students who need them without cost. We should increase connectedness in our schools with smaller classes and better access to caring adults. We should provide things through the high schools and colleges because suicide kills teenagers and college students in disproportionate numbers, and because school is where they spend much of their time so we can easily affect many students and many risk factors at the same time.

For a community like Palo Alto suffering through the unspeakable horrors of the past 7 years we should be doing everything we can all the time. We have money and we should should spare no expense, we should never stop trying, and we should decide to try as hard as we can to save every life. Every life. I'm sick of burying children. I feel like I have been traumatized and retraumatized and retraumatized over and over and over for the past 7 years. I want this to stop.

There is no way to describe the depths of the sorrow experienced by families like mine and like the Lees. We are members of a club that no one wants to be in -- but which does not discriminate. Anyone can experience this devastation and the odds are greater in a community where this contagion has taken hold. We should do more and do it faster and better.

I am sorry to miss your speech Mr. Lee and I wish you peace.

27 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Community Center
on May 11, 2016 at 8:07 pm


That dream of yours only occurs in small, private schools and cannot be expected of a public school of 2000.

One positive my 3 children have found in this district is lack of bullying. In general, students are very nice compared to other schools on the nation.

7 people like this
Posted by Stop it
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 11, 2016 at 10:17 pm

Hold your comments and please thank mr Lee for courage acceptance and his sharing
Mr Lee I thank you for your wisdom courage and your willingness to share your great loss with community

11 people like this
Posted by Sarah1000
a resident of Los Altos
on May 12, 2016 at 5:05 am

Sarah1000 is a registered user.

@ Michele Dauber- Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts on a comprehensive solution. As the parent of a teen who was hospitalized for having a suicide plan, I have learned that suicide is a complicated issue. For my son, an increase in the symptoms of his long-diagnosed major depressive disorder was the overriding factor. And, yes, there were accompanying changes in his sleep pattern. The stresses of school left little time for a good self-care routine (exercise, downtime etc.) which may have contributed to his worsening symptoms. However, but for the disease of depression, I do not believe he would have reached the point of seriously contemplating suicide. The lack of mental health services in our community continues to be a challenge. My son now receives all his care in San Francisco. And every hospital in Santa Clara County continues to send away (to out-of-county facilities) every suicidal youth who comes to them for help. Nothing is more stigmatizing than being sent away in your moment of greatest desperation.

3 people like this
Posted by No Judgement Please
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2016 at 9:04 am

Dear readers,

I applaud TC for coming forward and sharing his experience. I hope we can all be as unselfish and courageous to listen to what he has to say. My kids are adults now and I am still learning to be a better parent and citizen of our wonderful community.

I do however have one question for TC if he is reading these comments. TC: if you feel comfortable, please share your family's experience with the usage of anti-depressant drugs. I've noticed an unusually high percentage of our elementary school students on prescription medication. Can this be a factor in our teen's mental health?


16 people like this
Posted by Unfortunate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2016 at 9:05 am

[Post removed.]

42 people like this
Posted by OTHER parents
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 12, 2016 at 7:54 pm

Our experience here was somewhat negative in terms of environment... in that other parents - some - heavily pressure their students to: cheat, win at any cost, push push push; brag about (costly) extra-curriculars; emphasize competition and "status" of select subjects such as: MATHEMATICS. Look, if ya didn't do BC Calculus AP by Junior year, ya weren't anybody. Put downs. Never mind that some of these kids we knew didn't even want to or turn out to be Mathematics majors in college. They were tutored and prepped anyway...for competitive advantage for university apps.
Little self direction by many of these kids. Some DID appreciate their competitive advantages (paper record for apps). One's kids may be affected, therefore, by the "plans" and "pressures" of OTHER parents, whose own children may or may not be able to perform and/or cope with these schemes.
Tired of the notion the world revolves around Stanford. They have a superb PR department. Meantime, there is a big old world out there - that kids should be made aware of - and it's a whole lot better than Stanford, sometimes.

23 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Community Center
on May 13, 2016 at 9:09 am

OTHER parents

Don't mislead everyone. That's a certain group of people who are like that; those who don't hang out with that crowd are unaffected. And no one thinks the world revolves around Stanford. In fact, most know that Stanford is out of reach unless the child has some past/present connection to Stanford, such as parent professor, parent alum, relative alum, relative in high stature. There are too many Palo Altans with a connection that non-legacies don't have a chance.

In elaborating on my former post about the students being generally nice, students are liberal and open-minded. Girls are holding hands, boys are holding hands, lesbian attended prom dressed in tux with girlfriend, a gay dressed in drag for prom . . . any other school would provoke bullying but not at Paly.

10 people like this
Posted by The Connected Family, Kiran Gaind
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 14, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Thank you Mr. Lee for speaking out. I work with parents in this community, as well as educational leaders, every day, and I applaud your courage to speak when I'm sure you are feeling so much pain. We all have so much to learn from you and are grateful for your vulnerability and generosity in the face of your loss. I know many people who love your family dearly in this community and we all know this could have happened to any of our families. The educational system has got to change into one that is truly focused on serving the needs of children. And parents need to embrace their role as primary care givers of their children, advocates for their well being no matter what, rather than as monitors of their performance and compliance to a dysfunctional and broken system. Our educational leaders and teachers need to view reform from a child centric rather than teacher centric or system centric perspective. Your story is so important, and your reaching out such an act of healing and peace, for all of us. THANK YOU.

29 people like this
Posted by Unfortunate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2016 at 4:29 pm

[Post removed.]

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Posted by Offensive ^^^^
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 14, 2016 at 5:00 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

3 people like this
Posted by @Unfortunate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2016 at 5:17 pm


It is unfortunate that you're addressing the mental health needs/deficits of one group versus the need for more awareness among all groups of American people. Currently in the news is the mother of James Holmes, who killed many movie-goers in the Denver area a few years ago. She is talking about her lack of awareness and inaction when it came to her son's mental illness. She is an educated, white American woman (a nurse) married to a white American Stanford and Berkeley graduate. She sounds a lot like the mother of one of the Columbine shooters who was also in the news in recent months--another educated, white American woman. Both women speak of their failure to recognize the full extent of their sons' struggles with mental health. It does not help to single out one demographic group as being most in need of mental-health awareness.

22 people like this
Posted by Unfortunate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2016 at 5:19 pm

[Post removed.]

31 people like this
Posted by Unfortunate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2016 at 6:50 pm

I don't think the problem in the Asian community is 100% failure to recognize symptoms. If there is not a recent family history of it in one's family, it could go u nrecognized by anyone. However, the affected kids often don't get treatment because to acknowledge it and publicly get treatment causes (they think) shame to the family for all the world to see. The world is judgmental.

Incidentally, my father was Dutch/Indonesian, my mother is Portuguese/Japanese. I know what I am talking about.

3 people like this
Posted by @Unfortunate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2016 at 7:45 pm


"[T]he affected kids often don't get treatment because to acknowledge it and publicly get treatment causes (they think) shame to the family for all the world to see."

It doesn't matter if you are of Asian descent. What you write about affects not just Asians but all ethnic groups. What you write about prohibits many families, Asian or not, from facing mental-health challenges head on.

24 people like this
Posted by Strawberry
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2016 at 10:38 pm

I attended this talk tonight and was rather disturbed by it. I don't think what Palo Alto's kids need to be healthy right now is more Jesus shoved down their throat.

31 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Community Center
on May 16, 2016 at 2:12 am

Agree with Unfortunate. The Asian culture prioritizes academics and has an extreme work ethic. However, it's a mistake to assume Chinese are all Tiger Parents because it's just plain wrong. I know plenty of Chinese immigrants who say they left China because they didn't want so much pressure for their children.

Agree with Strawberry that there was a lot of religion but the speaker did not insist that teens seek Jesus. He said his religious beliefs helped him heal. And we weren't to expect that TC Lee has the solution: "TC Lee said . . . that he felt compelled to publicly share his story not as an expert, but to offer one person's experience with loss and mental health." He did point out that when his son said he needed to see a psychiatrist, there was a 6 month wait in Santa Clara County. They did find him one somewhere who could see him in two weeks. But this is obviously a problem that needs fixing. When someone needs mental help, they cannot be expected to wait so long.

Before TC spoke, some woman stood up, said she was bipolar and wanted to go to the hospital and for someone to call 911. She said her husband didn't want her to attend the meeting alone. She kept talking and they finally got her to the aisle and Pastor Dan and a group prayed with her and led her out as she stated she was going to kill herself. This in itself was a learning experience for me.

TC is a good speaker and his talk was informative and helpful. He said there is too much pressure in this city. And, as most parents feel, he regretted not complimenting his son more, although they seemed to have a good relationship. TC appreciated that his son was artistic and musically inclined and did not expect him to follow his path to Stanford engineering. He said it happened so fast. When his wife said his son was having difficulty, he immediately flew home from a business trip in Taiwan; 24 hours later, his son was dead. He reminded people to appreciate their children. TC said his son left a note which read, "To help me the most, move on; heal." And through revelations, he was sure his son was happy with Jesus by his side now. TC appreciated that his son was artistic and musically inclined and did not expect him to follow his path to Stanford engineering. His blond hair, haircut, and pierced ears are homage to his son. In addition, he has a rainbow tattoo on his arm with his son's initials; his son had wanted a tattoo.

Who is to know if their child will run to the tracks? My son had a tough freshman year and with mother's intuition, one day, I feared he went to the tracks. Teens are immature and sometimes just want out and cannot see clearly even if they have a supportive and loving family. I read that survivors who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge felt on their fall that it was the wrong decision. Trains don't give second chances. The teachers need to be enlightened as to what their students endure on their pathway to college; I'm convinced many of them have no idea how they are affecting these lives and families.

12 people like this
Posted by Sarah1000
a resident of Los Altos
on May 16, 2016 at 6:34 am

Sarah1000 is a registered user.

I, too, attended the talk last night. I want to send love and support to the woman who was in the midst of a bipolar episode and to her family. While mental health resources for suicidal teens are almost nonexistent in our County, they are severely limited for adults as well. She spoke of Dr. Ketter. He heads the bipolar clinic at Stanford and he has said that he sometimes has to treat patients in the halls. If you would like to learn more about bipolar illness, offers clear, easy-to-understand explanations of many illnesses. If anyone in your family has a mental illness, DBSASF has free, ongoing, walk-in peer-to-peer support groups: General consumer group and young adult group meet every Monday at 6:45pm (regardless of holidays); friends and family group meets the first and third Monday of every month at 6:45 as well. Both groups meet at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in SF.
Many teens also struggle with gender identity and sexual orientation issues. There is a wonderful nonprofit called that offers a hotline, text, chat and social networking for LGBTQ youth.

7 people like this
Posted by @Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2016 at 9:25 am


I appreciate your overview of last night's talk. I wanted to go but could not. I did not know Harry. My child is years from entering high school. But I was very moved and saddened by Harry's death last year. In your post, you pointed out some things that always affected me when I saw the pictures of Harry and watched his sensitively made video about his life at school--not just his life, but what he sensed as the challenging lives of his classmates as well. His video showed concern for himself and others. It sounds like Harry's father spoke of those things: Harry's creativity, sensitivity, yearning, and more. I had the sense that Harry's family was supportive, and yet it troubled me, because in this town, under these conditions, life is hard for teenagers despite having loving parents and siblings. Harry's video noted the pressures coming from the outside world; we begin in the inner world of home and venture to the world outside that presents vexing questions for the young people (something, Mom, you bring up in your post).

I wanted to hear more about TC's hair color, and I am glad he colored his hair and has a rainbow tattoo, because the pictures of Harry with his hair colored indicated his creative, artistic, and expressive qualities. What a beautiful and daring way for TC to honor his son. It is outstanding for an Asian-American parent in this town to present himself that way. My sense is that it is in line with what Harry was doing, e.g. in his video. To see an Asian-looking male with colored hair makes people question: What is going on here? What's my identity? How can we creatively define and redefine ourselves? Intellectual, artistic, socially conscious questions.

As an Asian-American adult, I would say it's easier to be seen (and treated) as a stereotype than as an individual. I would say it is especially hard to be seen outside the box of the STEM fields. It's hard to be seen as someone with creative interests. But this is what I recognized in Harry, and I am heartened that TC spoke about his son's artistic and musical interests.

@Strawberry, I'm wondering about that "Strawberry."

If I'm remembering correctly, Harry's video featured the Coldplay song "Strawberry Swing." The song describes people moving within "a perfectly straight line" but also introduces the wish to "curve away."

Beyond ethnicity, as a diverse community, we need to appreciate not just the STEM-related potential of our teenagers. We need to cherish their other interests and talents and ways of expressing themselves--including their complex and evolving gender identities. I'm not saying these are easy issues for parents to deal with, because there are many pressures forcing students and their families to walk a limited, constricting, well-worn path to graduation and seemingly everything that comes after. As parents, and as a community, we need to help widen and meander the path(s) that our children feel the freedom to take.

The Coldplay song:
"Without you . . ."
"Without you . . ."
"Without you . . ."
"Without you . . ."

Without love . . .
without support . . .
without understanding . . .
without (and alone) . . . . Life can be incredibly hard for teenagers.

Deepest sympathies, and thank you to Harry's family for speaking from the heart.

10 people like this
Posted by Strawberry
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 16, 2016 at 10:35 am

The complex gender identity stuff is making things worse, not better. On top of proving themselves as students, kids are now being asked to prove themselves as men or women, or face decades of expensive and invasive pharmaceutical interventions, or build up faux-intersex identities like "genderqueer" or "neutrois".

It's all part of the same problem: kids being treated like packages for development by the powers that be instead of whole persons in their own right.

2 people like this
Posted by @Strawberry
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2016 at 11:44 am


I understand what you're saying about the pressures on college-bound teenagers to package themselves in various ways for college admissions. That is a problem. I don't, however, think teenagers are being pressured/required to take on "new" gender identities more than they're being asked to increase their awareness of gender issues: a good thing.

The "old" gender stereotypes are still with us and still difficult to navigate. For Asian/Asian-American males, this primarily has to do with being perceived/stereotyped as effeminate. For Asian/Asian-American females, there are two stereotypes: "The Dragon Lady" (masculine, threatening) or "The Butterfly" (feminine, submissive). There are difficult gender stereotypes to contend with in daily life. There are individuals who are born intersex, but even someone who defines herself as "female" and "woman" struggles--no matter ethnicity--with idea(l)s of "femininity" and "masculinity" on a daily basis. The issue is similar for men of all ethnicities who must also struggle with gender issues, e.g. how many men feel comfortable expressing their feelings, or crying, in public?

Gender issues are complex, and it seems sensible to view them from different angles.

4 people like this
Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 16, 2016 at 11:59 am

iSez is a registered user.

Forum etiquette: Your "name" should be different than who you are replying to. @ goes in the message, not in the name.

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Posted by Nonconformist
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2016 at 12:15 pm


I recognize the etiquette of the forum, but I wanted note that I am addressing a specific person, to an extent. I never meant to offend anyone.


3 people like this
Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 16, 2016 at 12:43 pm

iSez is a registered user.

@Noncomformist: No offense taken, hopefully no offense given. But it's redundant because you have the @ already in your message. But the main reason you should post correctly is that the editors only allow one alias per thread and will delete messages if they are from the same IP address but different names.

22 people like this
Posted by Truth
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 16, 2016 at 8:42 pm

Max is allowing these [portion removed] factories to continue and teachers with tenure to run amok. He ignorantly blames the parents for an easy excuse. It's clear he is looking to increase the schools' reputations with his science research projects, etc. Max, if our students are being overworked in subjects they don't care about, they have no time left to feed their passions. Focusing on their passions will lead to kudos for our schools. Having more time to study for SATs will boost the reputations. And why doesn't the school offer SAT classes for their students?

23 people like this
Posted by Unfortunate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2016 at 9:02 am

As a bi-racial Asian American, I find the idea of Asian men or women lightening their skin or hair, having eyelid surgery and breast implants, or any other cosmetic changes to make them look less Asian to be a sign of self-hatred. It is also highly offensive to other Asians as well as Caucasians.

Cosmetic and surgical changes don't change your race, they just make you look strange!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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