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District: Kids' emotional health a top concern

Original post made on Aug 24, 2009

In the wake of three student Caltrain suicides in four months, student emotional health is a top priority for the Palo Alto school district. However, school officials say they cannot solve the problem alone.

Related story:
[Web Link Terman teachers to counsel students tonight]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, August 24, 2009, 3:55 PM

Comments (84)

Posted by katie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Help me out folks. Is Townsend saying that, if she had to choose due to funding, she'd rather have counselors hustle for kids to get into Ivy League schools than nurture their mental health? I *can't* believe that anyone would think or imply something like this, but it sure sounds that way to me. I'd like to hear others' takes on this.

Posted by Brian
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 6:19 pm


If Townsend is saying that, then I fully support her. It is a complete waste of money to hire counselors. The more we dwell on suicide and depression among teens, the more of it we will get. It is much wiser to focus on those kids who are dedicated to their studies and success.

Suicides should be a private matter.

Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2009 at 6:27 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Katie, the 3rd child suicide in 4 months, all on the same spot, is a community matter. Every suicide so far has engendered a mass emailing about the matter by Skelly to every PA parent. In fact, I'm surprised this latest one hasn't been sent out yet.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Parents can't shift the blame to the school system. The problems start at home and the school system is deeply influenced by the unceasing striving of today's Palo Alto residents. It's always been bad, but has gotten much worse. Parents need to get their priorities in order - mental health first, academic record 2nd. You can influence the school system as well - you are the parents and the taxpayers. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 7:07 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 24, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Why cannot people recognize the truth that the major reason behind all of these is the family, particularly the parents. Children are the reflection of their parents, when they took their own life away, it causes tremendous pain and trouble for the community, that's a selfish act, and we shouldn't let this be any bigger distraction than what it already is.

Posted by Mayfield Child
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 24, 2009 at 7:47 pm

It is about time that this school district sits up and pay attention to more than just the three R's.

There is just not enough interaction for our children, not enough free time to persue pleasurable, unstressful enjoyment of growing into their minds and their bodies.

I feel the school has let a lot of the students down emotionally, not dealing with issues that the school over looks as "trivial" matters. Our schools need to reach out to students, not necessarily wait for them to come into the counseling office...(that office, by the way, needs an adjustment and needs to be a more people friendly place to receive help).
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2009 at 8:30 pm

"Others criticized, half-jokingly, the assignments of unremittingly "dark" literature by English teachers to high school students. District Superintendent Kevin Skelly said his daughter recently had finished "A Separate Peace" and threw the book across the room. Board member Dana Tom said his son was reading John Steinbeck and asked, "Who's going to die next?""

These education geniuses, unable to cope with the harsh reality, are implying that "dark" literature encourages suicide? Some of the healthiest people I know express themselves in dark art and music and have beautiful healthy families. So the educators will ban books and the sanitation will lead to "lighter" high-school students who will stay alive?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Mayfield Child, you still don't get it. YOU are responsible for what happens in the school, if you are a parent. YOUR are responsible for what happens in the communities in which you are a participating member.

Maybe the schools have let some of the students down some of the time - but you're responsible for that, too. Hold the schools accountable. Oh, wait, you already did, because in your community, if you have a student there, you demand excellence from the teachers so that the kid gets into college. That means they don't have much left over to do YOUR job, which is to nurture the child. That is, if you're a parent. If you yourself are a student, DEMAND that your parents hear you and get heard by the school system. That is the only way there will be change.

Posted by *
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:07 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:11 pm

The school district thing is always a delicate balance. They have to achieve, strive, achieve, strive, achieve. Then, when too many kids attempt to commit, or succeed at committing suicide, the district is supposed to act like they care deeply and make a bunch of changes. I've seen this for many years and as the daughter of a school teacher, I know how much the district tries to spin nearly everything that can reflect upon them negatively. But hey, it goes hand in hand w/what the community is demanding - striving, achievement, striving, achievement, striving, achievement. All this, in the age of pervasive diagnoses of mental health issues and people being medicated, often w/out enough due diligence performed by the medical "expert."

Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Even one kid attempting suicide is one kid too many.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Ironic that all of us are posting here so much, but no one's said anything about the whackjob kid at Hillsdale High School who was armed w/pipe bombs, a sword & chainsaw. He was going to kill, kill, kill. I mean no disrespect to the young lady or her loved ones, but at least she didn't try to physically hurt anyone else, she was just trying to end her pain. But this 17 y/o kid? Talk about an event that should be discussed...

Posted by look around
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:59 pm

why is palo alto reinventing the wheel? in the same way they ignored a national math panel and selected Everyday Math, they may overlook plenty of successful character education programs out there

someone pointed out the recent ny times article about an EMOTIONAL RESILIENCY program for army recruits tested mainly in Middle Schools

Published: August 17, 2009
PHILADELPHIA — The Army plans to require that all 1.1 million of its soldiers take intensive training in emotional resiliency, military officials say.

The training, the first of its kind in the military, is meant to improve performance in combat and head off the mental health problems, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide, that plague about one-fifth of troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.........The new program is to be introduced at two bases in October and phased in gradually throughout the service, starting in basic training. It is modeled on techniques that have been tested mainly in middle schools...."

Web Link

Posted by student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:15 pm

I hate reading threads like this. If kids' emotional health is really your top concern, make a way for students to anonymously give you the reasons you are looking for and the real causes to blame. There are real reasons and real causes that are ignored.

Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:22 pm

It seem to me that we can all agree that stress is the root of the problem here. When stress is overwhelming it does kill. The thing we don't seem to be able to do, as a community, is agree on how to reduce the stress we place on our kids. For every horrible suicide, there are thousands of kids who have lifelong problems because of childhood stress.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

To Student - why not post some of those reasons here so that they can be brought to the attention of the school district? It's worth a shot, isn't it?

Posted by mother of one
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 25, 2009 at 12:23 am

I have 2 girls who went through Gunn. One is a senior this year. She is strong and focused and has a good group of friends, she was lucky. My older daughter did not fit in and did not have a strong group of friends or an activity that provided belonging. She was rejected and teased and taunted from 3rd grade until she could no longer face her peers at school and crashed and burned a clinically depressed 16 year old. If we had not fought hard to love her, accept her, sustain her and get her help she would not be here today. There are many many kids at Gunn who are good kids but are not super stars or have problems at home or are outcasts at school. One day something particularly bad happens and they cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel and have no one to turn to (kids push their parents away and parents don't want to believe their child might be at risk).....we need to be aware of these kids and their situations, we need to teach our children to be compassionate and empathic and observant. We need to come forward and get help for out children if they need it, no shame, it will save their lives. Now because several children have taken their lives it has broken down the barrier....others see this as a way is incumbent upon every single one of us including teachers and students and parents to take action if we have a 'sense' someone is in trouble before it escalates. I would like the school to talk openly to the population and help them process their feelings in assemblies with trained professionals - they need to know it is ok to come forward for themselves or for a friend.

Posted by laura
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2009 at 4:43 am

My two kids graduated from Gunn in the late 90's and both have good jobs on the East Coast. Gunn was a pressure cooker then and still is from what my neighbors/friends tell me who have children there. Many families we knew at the time moved to other communities to "de-stress" their children and find a school system that was more welcoming and not so focused on AP's, Ivy League colleges, etc. Not every child can handle such an atmosphere as is clear from the last four months. Until this community wakes up these sucicides will happen regularly.

Posted by teacher mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2009 at 7:01 am

There are many factors that lead kids to contemplate suicide, and I don't want to imply that this is the only important one, but there's educational research dating back to the 1970s saying that kids with fall birthdays have a higher risk of teen suicide. That's part of the reason that only 5 states in the US still have December cut-off dates for admission to kindergarten (and they're the 5 at the bottom, including California). Most states have a Sept 1 cutoff date. Community response to the tragedies of teen suicide has to deal with many things, but if such an administrative change could reduce risk and save lives, wouldn't it be well worth it?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2009 at 7:50 am


I am very interested in what you are saying. Are you saying that those who are the youngest in their grade level are more at risk? Won't that mean that if the cutoff date was Sept. 1, then thoses more at risk would be the ones with summer birthdays? Or am I misunderstanding you?

This correlates with some of the ideas in the book "Outliers".

Posted by Teach
a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2009 at 8:05 am

It's not true that we have to choose between stress and good academics on one hand and poor academics on the other. The stress is a function of the environment. Sure family plays a part here, but the determining factor is the school, and the key to setting up a healthy environment is the teachers and especially the principal.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Former Gunn Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 25, 2009 at 8:39 am

One of the most important voices here is the Gunn student. Why aren't we listening to our kids? Why isn't the school district listening to Gunn students? There's only one PAUSD school that has social/emotional growth as well as academics at its core and that is Ohlone. How about the district looking at what they already have that is working?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by another gunn mom
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 25, 2009 at 8:53 am

To laura:
ARe you saying that only Gunn is pressure cooker? What about the 3 suicides at Los Gatos High last year? Were they not publicized because they happened quietly?
It isnt all the school's "pressure cooker" environment. Two students committed suicide when I was in high school back east 40 years ago and my school was no pressure cooker.

Posted by Ada
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2009 at 9:48 am

People! Remember yourself at that age! What would bring your mood down to despair? It is not academic pressures, it was the feeling of loneliness, not fitting in socially or tragic love! I am sure the suicide note was not about " I am leaving this world because I can't cope with academic pressure at Gunn"!

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2009 at 10:05 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

There are laws now about suicides that protect the "victim" so unless the family wants to be public or they happened in a public way, not much is published about them.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2009 at 10:29 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Steve C.
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 25, 2009 at 11:01 am

I think we should all pay close attention to what Teachermom has pointed out. It's always tougher to be behind the eight ball developmentally than one's peer group, especially if the peer group is artificially imposed because of a condition like cutoff dates. This issue is related to the birth month dilemma discussed in Gladwell's OUTLIERS. This is a book that I recommend to all parents.
I also think that sweeping problems under the rug and burying our heads in the sand is counter-productive. I am perplexed that a portion of my question/comment in a previous post was deleted by the on-line staff as objectionable. What exactly are you afraid of, Staff?

Posted by another parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2009 at 11:05 am

It is outrageous that PAUSD spends our tax money and donated money on trips for our counsellors to visit "East Coast" schools. I think we all know what a small percentage of kids that benefits. That bit of knowledge will definitely influence my donations and voting pattern.

Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2009 at 11:21 am

"Thank goodness there is someone here at Paly who cares. But the administration is still not going to help me and it's frustrating." That comment came from my teenage son after a parent-counselor-student meeting was purposely scheduled last spring. There are some policies that still exist in this district that do not support the students (changing teachers mid year is an example here).

As parents we can go far in protecting the teens' emotional health through these difficult times at the high schools. But I believe we have a long way to go in the schools to also support them more effectively. I hope the district is reading these comments carefully and will take a look at some changes to help the students, particularly those with 504s or IEPs. Things are very broken.

Posted by Father of three
a resident of Nixon School
on Aug 25, 2009 at 11:56 am

I too am skeptical that academic pressure has played a significant role in these three recent suicides, and I wish we had more information about the three cases. However, I'll agree that too many parents in PAUSD are focused too much on education credentials as a Web Link , and not on the substance of education.

We need to remember that all suicides are homicides. We as a community deserve answers about what caused these murders, just as we would if a serial murderer were stalking Palo Alto teenagers. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Another Paly Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 25, 2009 at 11:58 am

Thank you neighbors for all of your thoughtful comments. I would like to know, regarding Teacher mom's comments, if the age of the three students fits that demographic, as I have children with fall birthdays also.

O also want to point out that the college and career office counselors do just that, not counseling on mental health issues, that is the job of the guidance office staff. Palo Alto has been cited as having a woefully poor guidance staff to student ratio. Acknowledging that the budget is tight, can't we get more Stanford student voluntary or low cost support in the Palo Alto middle and high schools?

Posted by yet another mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Just to set the record straight, there was one suicide at Los Gatos High last year, not three. In addition to the suicide, a student athlete died during practice and another student was killed in a surfing accident.

Posted by Midtown Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Sorry, I cannot absolve the school system of responsibility.

Case in point -
Its medically documented that teens need LOTS of sleep and their
natural body cycles dictage later waking times - like 9 am.
Why then does the school district buckle under the demands of the
teachers' union and start school at 7:55 am?

High-school parents tell me that many kids get 6 hours or even less
sleep. If they are part of an athletic team, practice is like
2hrs or more per day. 2 HOURS? AND they have to deal with a
lots of homework too? Where is there time to chill out every day?
Or are teenagers supposed to be like automatons?

Why is it so important to win in athletics? Are we training olympians?
Or are we feeding the egos of the coaches?

Spending that much time on athletics is just stupid. Yes its important
to play sports and be fit. absolutely. But there is no need to
make winning so important that students are stressed out for
lack of sleep.

Undelying all of this is the most singular characteristic of
American culture - A complete lack of moderation in every aspect
of life and a mad desire to maximize everything with no regard
to the consequences.

Posted by Annie
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 25, 2009 at 1:15 pm

In this environment with the high-achieving parents, no, it is not okay to admit mental health issues.

Depression is not necessarily for those who are "mentally ill". Children can become depressed due to environmental issues. When the environment changes, the depression lifts. Example: how many of us felt depressed in high school but live normal, satisfactory, or happy lives now?

PAUSD needs to find a way to stop the psycho-studying routines, such as ending the semester before Winter Break. End the semester later (closer to Christmas Eve), and start the school year a week earlier so the semester is finished before the Winter Break and they won't have projects or exams hanging over their heads during the "break". Or, just allow time off for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and then have Winter Break in January. Not everyone is Christian and Winter Break doesn't need to include Christmas Day. We don't even teach the Pledge of Allegiance to children anymore due to "under God".

Sleep deprivation also contributes to stress on the body and brain. Paly starts at 7:50, 8:15, 8:45, depending on the day. Start the day at 8:45 all days and end the day later to adjust. Sleep experts state that people need to wake up at the same time each day.

Finally, if a child lives an unhappy home life, how can the child avoid depression? Parents need to wake up and question why they had children in the first place if they don't appreciate them.

Are children living with praise, acceptance, tolerance, approval, kindness? I think there is too little of these things in most families.

Here's a famous poem from 1972 also available as a book under the same title:

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Posted by think before you speak
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2009 at 1:20 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

What we do not do well in this area is accepting people for who they are and respecting choices that may not be the same as you would make or expessing opinions that may not be the same as you believe. We have lost the ability to listen, learn and accept others for who they are and therefor we do open the door to make people old and young feel helpless and alone.

Think about your motives the next time you ask one of your child's friend a question about test scores or college choice or anything. Are you asking the question to compare your own child or is it because you really care about the person that you are asking? Does the answer somehow make you feel better about yourself or are you asking because you truly care about the person?

Posted by One Gunn Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 25, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Just for the record, high school counselors pay for their trips back east and don't get reimbursed--at least that is what happens at Gunn.

Gunn and Paly have 2 VERY different guidance systems. Gunn's counselors spend a lot of time on emotional health, as well as class selection, course changes, absences, college selection, college recommendations, 504 plans, IEP's, and academis performance--and handle over 350 kids per year--they do 2 jobs and we ask them to do more all the time.

Addressing the problem in high school is too late. Kids need to learn at a very early age how to cope with negative emotions: frustration, anger, kids being mean, disappointment, etc. The also need to learn how to find help from adults/peers when they feel this way. Kids used to have all of kindergarden and first grade to learn these socializtion and coping mechanisms. Now we are pushing reading, writing and math down into kindergarden. I think we have given up on helping children learn to express and cope with emotional feelings in favor of academics.

The majority of high school teachers are young (under 35). Many of them have never dealt with a death of a loved one, let alone of a student. We need more support and training for them on how to handle loss and how to form bonds with students--reach out and hug someone (maybe not literally because of sexual harassment).

So, I think there is a lot the schools can do to help.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2009 at 3:34 pm

I think you're being unrealistic about the role of teachers. It's not their job to parent for you. Really, what is so hard about taking a good, honest look at yourselves as parents and as a community and making some changes? These are YOUR children, the friends of your children and the children of your friends.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2009 at 3:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 25, 2009 at 4:15 pm

there are many things teachers can do to decrease student stress

Learn your students name
Treat them with respect
Assign meaningful homework that increases learning, not just looks cool (no coloring in HS, project should actually teach the subject not build art skills)
Make your classroom a welcoming place
Act like you are interested in teaching your students
Pay attention to schedules - if you teach a lot of juniors, the weekend of SAT testing is not the time to assign a huge project, could it wait til Monday?

There are many more, but you get the idea...

Posted by PAUSD Teacher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Palo Alto Mom,
As a dedicated PAUSD teacher I am alarmed that you think that teachers don't know their student's names. I make sure that I know every student I come into contact with by the second time we have class. As a secondary teacher that means learning 300+ names sometimes in two days. I realize some teachers don't put as much effort into this as I do but, I also feel that most of the stress put on students does not come from teachers themselves. It comes more from the community, and mostly from parents.

Posted by Rose
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 25, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Kids are stressed. Period. Social pressue is huge... fitting in, being accepted, having "a crowd" to hang with. Academic pressure is real... it is concrete, palpable. Give the kids some tools....and a vocabulary to discuss depression and anxiety. Offer Yoga and meditation in PE... (really, who needs badmitton in high school)..give them life skills.... Offer Yoga and mediation at luunch, PE and After School to allow them to de-stress. Homework needs to allow them to take their learning to the next level.. not just keep them busy. Give homework deadlines 3 - 5 days in advance. NEVER give home work that is due the very next day. You just can't know what else that kid has on his/her plate.. maybe a family job.... it's too much stress to require homework be done that day... they get home at 6:00 or 7:00 from sports.. they may have to play an instrument or work in a family run business. This doesn't leave them any free time... or even time to sleep.

Posted by George
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2009 at 5:42 pm

As a mental health provider in this area and reading how everyone is reacting to it, I'm really suprised that a psychologist or psychiatrist or someone with Public Health experience has not been consulted by Palo Alto.
A really big problem is how people in the community feels it's necessary to keep this hush hush. The recent suicides signifies a real need to immediately gather a team of professionals together wit the school and city.

Posted by louise
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 25, 2009 at 5:58 pm

I have been frustrated for years by the environments of the schools my kids attended in Palo Alto outside of Ohlone for their lack of emphasis on good citizenship and character. The administrations of these schools add to this by not modeling good character. When children come into the office for their needs, they are always told to wait -- and then treated as if it is a problem to deal with changing classes, teachers, doctor's appts. etc. To get transcripts sent to colleges poses a problem and rudeness. To change classes is a multifaceted project for a student to surmount. What I'm trying to say is that kids feel as if they are fending for themselves. Thats isolating. If you add to that any kind of real or perceived emotional or social difficulty in connecting with your classmates, or teachers you have a recipe for problems. Parents are busy -- kids can act as if their parents concerns are unfounded - where do kids get the sense that they are valued for who they are - wanted, cared for , and cherished.

I want the kids to say what they feel are the problems facing their emotional health -- and I want the schools to be prepared to do things differently -- like different time schedules, easier ways of dealing with the system - a teacher who cares and goes out of their way - small groups who meet and become supports for each other --

When Mr. Hopkins died I remember my daughter coming home from the assembly held in his honor horrified that half of the assembly was devoted to Mr. Hopkins and then in the next breath it was a pep rally for homecoming!!! The Administrations answer to kids questioning that assembly was that we didn't have time to do both in separate assemblies. Why not? Always academics becomes more important than social and emotional growth and opportunities.

Develop an inclusive, gentle, caring environment and it would go far to lesson the problems in our children's community.

Posted by PV Native
a resident of Portola Valley
on Aug 25, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Midtown Mom makes a great point --- Teenagers do need a lot of sleep, and their "clocks" are different from a younger child or an adult. Several schools in this area have adopted later start times to address this concern, Woodside HS and Woodside Priory among them. A well rested individual is a more resultant individual, better equipped to handle stress.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Why not get groups of parents together whose kids go to the various schools w/some proposed changes to see if they can be adopted?

Of course, what really needs to happen in conjunction is that the *parents* make some changes, but that isn't going to happen very easily in Palo Alto, is it? It's like trying to get the parents here in EPA to care more about their kids and change their values accordingly. Similar problem, similar results - screwed up kid.

Cops say the poor kids kill each other and the wealthier kids kills themselves. Their is some truth in it.

Posted by parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Well of course, they can't. Every teachable moment the high school administration has been faced with, they've elected to impose punitive consequences and a one-size fits all solution to whatever they are faced with. If ever a situation needs an individualized approach, it's teen suicide. School administrators are simply not creative and imaginative enough to deal with this very difficult subject. Neither are we as a community. Take care of the fragile and don't hide your head in the sand!

Posted by Life and Death in the World
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2009 at 9:39 pm

As the CalTrain official said, getting to What is motivating the students to suicide would be more effective than preventing trains from running, cars from driving, and knives from being sharp.

Banning reading materials, sheltering people and students even more won't help anyone face and resolve conflicts, whether socially, internally, or in any situation. Experience, exposure and providing non-judgemental "safe havens" to allow people (not just students) to talk about and face anything that bothers them, releasing their pent up, hidden emotions, feelings, confusions would be one of the more "refreshing" places to offer in Palo Alto.

There's a need for a Connecting Place for the teens in Palo Alto, for sure. For it to be a "safe haven" would help create the trust needed for kids to open up and feel comfortable as they learn how to handle situations, whether they are the one hearing about someone's thoughts of self-destruction or are the one at risk.

Every life is worth living. Some may just not see it so sometimes.

Posted by Connie
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 25, 2009 at 9:47 pm

My teenager was having uncharacteristic academic trouble in school at Gunn last year and was acting borderline depressed. We tried to set up a conference with the teacher in the class that was causing him the most distress, and that teacher REFUSED to meet with us, despite multiple, diplomatic requests. Bad, bad situation. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I suggest that Gunn and other schools examine real, impactful alternatives for identifying and helping troubled adolescents. Kids spend a big chunk of their time at school and teachers have a powerful influence on them.

Schools and parents need to work together. Preventing teen suicide is not the sole responsibility of one or the other.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Connie, say what you will about the schools and the teachers. It sounds like what you went through was reprehensible on the teacher's part. I was mistreated by a Paly teacher and it only changed when I nicely told him to eff off because I knew what he was doing was wrong. I was actually surprised that he backed down, which showed me he was a bully and proved the point that his treatment of me was wrong.

However, you parents are responsible for your kids, solely. You are liable for their actions and responsible in other ways as well. If you can get the schools to change, that'd be great and a huge step, but don't hold your breath. Change HAS to start at home, perhaps in tandem in working w/other parents on getting the schools to change - but that right there would cause change as home. If kids saw that parents cared for their mental health more than test scores and college acceptances they might come to understand how much they truly are valued.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by surprised
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 25, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Dear Connie, I was very surprised (and somewhat frustrated) to read your message. Can a school official comment on this?

Hope your teenager is fine now.

To Palo ALto Online: is there an open forum for parents to voice their concerns about the school system, or to make constructive suggestions for future improvement? At the end, you can compile a big list and forward it to each school.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 25, 2009 at 10:42 pm

PAUSD teacher - based on the fact that you are reading this and responding, you are probably really far off the radar of teachers who make things worse. The basics are kind-of a duh to most teachers, my list seems pretty silly. Most PAUSD teacher are wonderful, caring people. I have found as a group, the elementary teacher to be 95% terrific, middle school to be 80% terrific and Paly to be a real mix.

PALY - My son just started 11th grade. Last year, his history teacher did not know his name until the the 2nd semester. Spanish teacher told him not to ask for help, that struggling on his own was "part of the learning process". Math teacher told him he was stupid. This is a kid who does his work, studies hard, participates in class, is well behaved and has been labeled a delight by many teachers. Then there are the projects assigned without much explanation, papers not handed back for 4-6 weeks (so you head into final not having a clue what your grade is), teachers who gossip about students, teachers who tell you they "have a life" so don't ask them when things will get handed back, you get the idea. If our well paying, well thought of district has so many teachers like that (and in HS I'd say its at least 20% of the teachers) can you imagine what the struggling districts have to deal with. Makes me happy to have teacher unions and tenure....

Posted by Parent of a Gunn student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 25, 2009 at 10:56 pm

Our child just started school at Gunn today. Our child, whose needs we try hard to meet, is bright and did well academically in Middle School, but this child also has particular non-academic developmental issues (which I will not describe here), sees professionals to learn to overcome this, and has to be on anxiety medication because sometimes the world is still quite overwhelming.

The truth is that the system makes absolutely NO provision for children who may need a "safety net" for various reasons. You BET I am extremely concerned about how this particular child, who has more personal obstacles than many, will survive the high-pressure Gunn environment.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 25, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Okay, we know the schools have issues, but from what we know, two of the kids were good students and the third one was between schools--so is it really a case of awfulness at Gunn? One was a couple of weeks short of graduation and had been admitted to a desirable choice, another had never been to Gunn.

What happens at the schools may reflect the social issues in this city, I don't think this is really about the schools.

Posted by student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 25, 2009 at 11:55 pm

I don't think so either. I do really agree with ohlonepar.

Posted by Lena
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2009 at 11:30 am

Academic stress is just an excuse or slight aggravating circumstance, looking deep into the root cause you will inevitably social issues - social acceptance, loneliness, unhappy love, concerns about looks, body, etc. We shield kids from these, but I think it woyudl be helpful if they do get exposed to it through literature, cinematography where such topics get bread coverage and "relive" it with theri characters as opposed to reall life. They say that small children benefit from scary fairy tales because they need to learn to know fear and overcome it. same with teenagers, they need to know the feeling and overcome it.

Posted by PA native
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 26, 2009 at 1:31 pm

As a Palo Alto native with a high school student whose friends unfortuantely witnessed this tragedy in person I find it disturbing that so many of the posts here think that suicide or depression amongst our children is mostly on the shoulders of the parents. Many of these high scademic achievers pick on the lower achievers as well as set the standards that may be unattainable for many. Yes families are to blame too but the moment your child leaves the house there is nothing you can do. I can't be there every moment to make sure other kids are teasing my child or making her feel inadequate - the schools don't do enough to empower all students - the focus is only on the high achievers.
In my 40+ years here this has always been a high achieving community but we were more tolerant and accepting of the students who will never be good at math or won't become a lawyer or a doctor. We were a community of athletes and artists and doctors and lawyers.
We need to encourage our children to succeed at what they are good at and what makes them happy not just what will make them money.

Posted by Another Gunn Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 26, 2009 at 1:43 pm

You are wrong about the role that the GUNN counselors play. They are way too busy and overworked to have a chance to see the students to discuss any sort of mental health or emotional guidance issue. Their main focus is college! It is very hard or almost impossible to see a guidance counselor in the fall if you are not a senior-- I am not sure what amazing counselor you have been working with but consider yourself very fortunate bacause that is not the norm.

Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 26, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Current students are a cohort such that the US has not seen in generations. They must have lower economic expectations than their parents and most will be downwardly mobile. Most will not be able to form families and live in Palo Alto or anywhere near it. Increasingly if a job can be put on a wire it will be - most have no real idea what they might strive for. It isn't the inevitable "rise of the rest" that offers both a need for harder work but opportunity as well. It's beyond that - they have basically been sold out and indebted as well. The students antennae picked all this up quite a while ago. They also have to face these things knowing little history for perspective and immersed in a completely commercial popular culture of mostly stunning emptiness.

It's way beyond the time for all those helpful people to ask the students what they think their prospects are. A student with no stock answers may not be "disturbed" at all, just perceptive. Or perhaps with an older college graduate sibling with no present prospects at all. We are living in a time when many economic and political institutions have failed us. Even the long term prospects of the US staying a single country can be questioned as well as California staying a single state.

The schools also might better address the world the students will have to live and work in. For example solid Asian languages programs, speaking and literacy, especially Mandarin. This area has many resources and native speakers available for a real advantage. There are also many people in this area whose stories and commitment in coming here are inspiring and may lend perspective given how intractable our problems may seem to be.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2009 at 3:44 pm


I realize you have a fixation with Mandarin, but what you're saying doesn't make a lot of sense. China's boom stems from China's large population. Chinese human labor is cheap as a result. The last thing China needs is more workers.

Fueling China's boom is us--Walmart is responsible for 10 percent of *all* Chinese exports. Think about it--our blue-collar population is supporting a large chunk of China.

Times are rough right now, but some of us grew up with parents who lived through the Depression. Times were quite a bit worse--25 percent unemployment and no safety net. Our nation survived that, we'll get through this.

Mandarin (or Spanish or Hindi) isn't the answer. Nor is your handwringing that all may be lost. Resilience, flexibility and persistence are all better traits to foster.

Posted by Debra Rojas
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 26, 2009 at 3:46 pm

I'm a mental health provider and I've read these posts and the posts last spring.
Comments and criticisms toward parents, schools and the school system do not help these children who are suicidal. Those who commit suicide are in psychological pain which is the hurt, anguish, etc. that takes hold in their mind. Psychological pain is how much they hurt as a human being and is part of larger fundamental life issues such as the need to be loved, to achieve, to avoid harm, etc. It is not just one of these very basic needs, and it is not the content of their everyday lives.

When these basic life needs are not met and the pain becomes intolerable, they become psychologically frustrated and just want to stop the pain. The suicidal person then focuses on their perception of failure, threat, duress, etc. which they deem vital to continue living. They are unable to label their feelings and emotions, or even communicate them to others, nor are they able to balance themselves with positive thoughts. Their single goal is to escape their pain.

So you can see that just forcing parents to talk to their kids, or changing curriculum, or having guidance counselors provide the counseling is not addressing this very deep, basic psychological pain related to fundamental life issues. Crises counseling is a first step, because our goal is to interrupt the suicidal behavior.

Treating suicidal people is long term because it relates to the person’s self-chosen moral position and manner of existence in the world. Each person’s perception is unique to them, and we need to focus on their frustrated needs which cause their psychological pain that in turn drives their suicidal thoughts.

I know of what I speak. I’m a trained therapist and I have a relative who committed suicide a year ago, and my son’s friend did the same as a teen. The surface issues, peer pressure, too much homework, family divorce, etc. while stressful, sad, and in some cases tragic, are not the true cause of the decision to kill oneself. It is a deeper and more basic issue of their humanness.

I hope you find this information helpful and let me know if I can help in any other way.

Posted by Dr Vikki Petersen
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2009 at 4:41 pm

While I would in no way wish to imply that I have a complete solution to this complex and serious problem, I would like to impart some pertinent information from my personal area of expertise.

In our recent book, “The Gluten Effect” the cause and effect relationship between depression and gluten sensitivity is discussed. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and is estimated to affect 40% of our population. Celiac disease falls within the spectrum of gluten sensitivity and affects 1% of our population. However, 95% of those suffering remain undiagnosed because most doctors consider it to be extremely rare. The average person takes about 10 years before they receive an accurate diagnosis.

The relationship been a reaction to gluten and depression is heavily researched and the findings are consistent.

Gluten, in susceptible individuals, causes inflammatory damage to the deep portions of the brain’s tissue. Gluten also results in malabsorption and some researchers point to a deficiency of the amino acid tryptophan which is known to create a feeling of well-being and relaxation.

The Journal of Digestive Disturbances in 2008 stated: “depressive symptoms
may be considered a common feature of celiac disease.”

They went on to say that: “diagnosis of celiac disease and consequent gluten-free diet adherence permitted the improvement of the depressive symptoms even when specific drug treatments for depression were stopped.”

The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry in1997 stated that: “The immune response triggered by sensitivity to gluten may find expression in organs other than the gut; and the central and peripheral nervous systems are particularly susceptible.”

The European Journal of Gastroenterolgy & Hep in 2003 proclaimed: “This study confirms that both depression and anxiety are common features among celiac disease patients.”

The proof is overwhelming and we see it almost daily in our practice. The underlying root cause of depression can be a poorly functioning digestive tract resulting from food sensitivities with gluten leading the list. The result is malabsorption, nervous system inflammation and hormonal imbalance. When the affected systems are identified and treated, excellent results are achieved. Medications are rarely needed to normalize these systems. A change of diet and nutrition is the major thrust of treatment and patients notice changes within a relatively short period of time.

I hope this information proves helpful. We have found it to be an important missing link when evaluating depression and anxiety in all ages.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN (a mother of three young adults)
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-Author of “The Gluten Effect”

Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Nice idea about parent groups, Hmmm. Many concerned parents tried to do this years ago but the school administrators refuse to meet with groups, and so does the district,

Posted by a reader
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 26, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Dr Vikki Petersen, what you said did not explain the 'cluster' situation, I think.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Posted by a reader
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 26, 2009 at 8:12 pm

From KCBS website:

"Gunn High School, meanwhile, is welcoming students back on Tuesday and is providing a free booklet to parents titled "99 Tips for Talking With Your Teenager."

I would definitely like to read the booklet but I am not a Gunn parent. Is it possible for Palo Alto Online to arrange a copy to reprint somewhere (with Gunn's permission)?

Thanks a lot!

Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 26, 2009 at 10:30 pm


Nothing in my post suggested some language program was "the answer" but called attention to the reality that the stresses from Globalism have nothing to do with France. California is part of the Pac Rim.

China has indeed a large worker population with a seldom remarked on demographic time bomb. But it was dropping Communism that worked for them. They also set their currency at half value and pegged it to the dollar and got away with it. That was a very simple strategy and unbeatable. It was augmented by a convoluted tariff program and restrictions on foreign ownership. IMHO, they outwitted pay to play Washington which they came to understand very well. Walmart did indeed wax rich by intelligently arbitraging that politically set currency difference. When currencies aren't free traded nothing else is. I believe the US came apart too soon for them, however.

"Think about it--our blue-collar population is supporting a large chunk of China."

With borrowed money. Our national bar tab is running into limits, however.

"Times are rough right now, but some of us grew up with parents who lived through the Depression. Times were quite a bit worse--25 percent unemployment and no safety net. Our nation survived that, we'll get through this."

I hope so too. But we have to know where we are and how we got here. Much of this is new, especially to most living Americans.

"Resilience, flexibility and persistence are all better traits to foster."

Better than what? Indeed they are traits needed more than ever and we have many examples of people locally who have triumphed over great odds and may inspire students. Students now face a different world than their parents did. The loss of high end US jobs is not temporary unless the dollar drops markedly or salaries by, say, half. Students cannot pick majors they simply like as they may face zero prospects. Their older siblings job problems are more believable than the school. They can't go to work for some big corporation as they continue to bail from the US. The students' lack of direction is not necessarily a disorder at all. It's a reflection of the reality they face. We need to respect the students more and not BS them. I've seen little in this discussion acknowledging that. It's as though the area is in a bubble.

It's also true that some demographics may have more problems because of their parent's divorce rate. That also affects the student's prospects going forward in family and financial support and only so much can be done in compensation. Social disintegration has its price.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Better than what? Better than doom-and-gloom handwringing.

You say this area's in a bubble--you're right, it is--a very expensive housing bubble. Fact is, you (and your kids) can have a nice life at a much lower cost if you live elsewhere in the country. I once read that the great thing about the U.S. is that you don't have to be highly successful to have a good life--with house, car, decent schools. Paricularly if you don't live in California with its damaged public school systems forcing one to overpay for good school systems.

I mean, god forbid if you live in Minnesota.

And, sorry, I just don't see the current situation as unusually disastrous from a historical perspective--at least our teens don't have to worry about their draft numbers.

If I sound a little jaded, it's because I remember the '80s when Japan was going to overtake us. China may well do so at some point, but it's got huge issues--the demographic time bomb is one, the lack of innovation and good higher level education is another, severe pollution is a third. Meanwhile, they're stuck with us and need us to recover.

In ten years, I expect India to be the "threat" to our dominance.

It's always something.

But I doubt this really has much to do with why a 13-year-old didn't want to be alive. People are using what's happened to bring up their own pet issues--be it China or gluten intolerance as the root of all depression.

Posted by Chris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2009 at 11:58 pm

To "A Reader" from Mountain View

The booklet "99 Tips for Talking with your Teenager" is published by Adolescent Counseling Services of Palo Alto (, 650 424-0852. It is full of good ideas.

Posted by a reader
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 27, 2009 at 9:16 am


Deeply appreciated!!

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 27, 2009 at 3:02 pm

speaking repeatedly of the pressure cooker that is Gunn...what about Paly?! About 6 years ago there were two male suicides by train at Paly. They were also tragedies.

Posted by Ross
a resident of Woodside
on Aug 27, 2009 at 5:51 pm

I grew up in the Palo Alto school system in the 80's and 90's and remember being extremely depressed, to the point of contemplating suicide. I can't put my finger on why I was so depressed, but I remember life getting much better as soon as I moved out of the school district and out of the city. I think the depression stemed from kids who had more money and/or/were smarter. I'm sure this happens at all schools, but all of a sudden Palo Alto kids apparently rejected me, for no reason. It still boggles my mind, I'm an elite athlete with a masters degree and a CPA license, it's not like I was some awkward nerd.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Relevant to the discussion:
Teen suicide: the next epidemic?
Web Link

Posted by PalyAlto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 27, 2009 at 9:26 pm

So why are there so many more teen suicides in Palo Alto than in other cities through which the train tracks run? Menlo Park, Redwood City and Mountain View do not have the this problem, at least not to the same degree as Palo Alto.

Someone above wrote "Crises counseling is a first step, because our goal is to interrupt the suicidal behavior."

That is a pound of cure. Shouldn't the goal be to prevent the suicidal behavior from starting in the first place?

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2009 at 9:34 pm

If you look a the statistics from to todays SJMN you will see that PA and Santa Clara County are just like the other Bay Area Counties on these metrics over the long term.
We have a contagion situation in Palo Alto, The CDC/WHO tells us how to end it.

Posted by wish list
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Ohlone Par,

"People are using what's happened to bring up their own pet issues--be it China or gluten intolerance as the root of all depression."

I agree everyone is bringing up their own personal gripes in these forums to try to explain what happened.

Any descent emotional resiliency program is likely not about fixing all of our personal grievances, but about knowing how to handle what life deals us, in life affirming ways.

On a practical note though - I would vote for a later starting hour in school so teens can sleep more, a major overhaul of the homework system, and an attitude adjustment in all adults to treat teens as kindly as possible. Have you smiled at a teen today?

oh, one more thing, team sports for more kids, not just for the supreme athletes.

Posted by Annie
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 27, 2009 at 11:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 28, 2009 at 11:13 am

The Mercury-News article by Patti Fisher indicated that there were some other zips which have an issue with youth suicide, but no, we really are high right now.

The Fisher article didn't really get into a good numbers breakdown--young adult suicides were in the same stats--it went up to age 24.

And, Sharon, the CDC doesn't seem to have a damn thing on how to control info that's already out there--and known because it happens in public.

The contagion, in that sense, is already there. That means we have to move onto the next stage: dealing with the root causes and prevention (making the Meadow site less accessible.

wish list,

as a night owl, I'm all for later start times. <g> But more than that, I think there is a rigidity in the school system, in parental expectations, in how we measure worthiness and success that is detrimental to the emotional well-being of our kids. While I think each death has its own particular story, we do see high rates of stress and depression in our kids. There needs to be more give in the system and our expectations as well as a greater sense of resilience in our children.

Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 28, 2009 at 6:21 pm

"People are using what's happened to bring up their own pet issues--be it China or gluten intolerance as the root of all depression."

Looking over my original post I see it can't be interpreted as 'China is the root of all depression'.

"In ten years, I expect India to be the "threat" to our dominance."

I believe this is simply well out of touch. It also means that the above is one of those people talking at each other political discussions and not appropriate in this topic. I won't respond to it further, but thanks for the thoughts.

I was calling attention to the fact that today's students are growing up with very different prospects and assumptions than their parents or grandparents. All Americans now have to roll up their sleeves. Many of the students may have always lived in PA but they will not be able to live in or near it in the future. PA's demographics are due for large changes in the coming years.

Students are immature, of course. They don't have the perspective of adults and their perceptions aren't always informed. But they aren't stupid nor completely oblivious. They do have antennae. Since they are kids, apprehending the world around them is their job and built in. Is it a good idea to stereotype them and to make no apparent attempt to find out where they think they are and where they are going? Aren't they due some simple respect, children or not? How many have contact with a student graduated from college with no job or present way forward as far as they know, reasonable or not? Are there still people in the school saying '60's nonsense like do what you like to do and the money will follow? Are there students dropping hundreds a month on plastic who never see anyone working except for cutting grass or store clerks? There are a few and they, and their friends are in trouble.

Resilience too is partly a matter of temperament. Some people are very stressed by changes that others might even welcome. The kids may have their limitations but are individuals, not statistics nor stereotypes, and of the time they live in.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 28, 2009 at 7:11 pm

These are the WHO guidelines on reporting suicide to stop contagion

(1) story does not mention suicide in the headline;

(2) story does not detail the method of the suicide;

(3) persons are not blamed for the death;

(4) story does not focus on life problems as the primary motive for the suicide;

(5) depression or another mental disorder is linked to the suicide or to the victim;

(6) story is not on the front page or section of the paper.

Ask yourself----How did Palo Alto do according to these guidelines?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2009 at 7:41 pm

KLIV radio had an interesting item on suicide today.

Web Link

It seems that suicide is number 10 on the list of what is killing people in Silicon Valley.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 28, 2009 at 11:49 pm

The main causes of premature death are, in fact, smoking and obesity.

In terms of teen suicide epidemics, the CDC and WHO have hard data on what causes it and what stops it.

In the 60s to 80s many therapists where promoting the idea that parental behavior or "society" caused schizophrenia.

Causing great pain to parents and no help, in fact harm, to schizophrenics.

This idea of the schizophrenogenic mother has been completely discredited with solid scientific proof.

Unfortunately non of the promoters of this scam paid any price, in fact they profited.

The current fashion seems to be to blame parents and teachers for teen suicide-- this is dangerous nonsense.

The CDC and WHO have studied this issue, it is a matter of biological depression, media reporting and peer interactions over social network sites.

Recall the drug epidemic of the 60s and 80s, it was caused by fashion, a spiritual vacuum ,the music industry, peer pressure, the press and dealers, not by parents or teachers,

No doubt we will see a range of snake oil salesmen coming to town like the pied piper.

Let us start by following the CDC/WHO recommendations and some trusted advice from Stanford MDs

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2009 at 9:25 am


Did you read what KLIV says?

Smoking and Obesity are not what kills people per se. It is secondary health conditions which are actually the cause of death.

It scares me that there are so many suicides (or self inflicted death in any manner) that is number 10 on the list of causes of death. Many lifestyle choices may lead to an ultimate cause of death, but actually choosing death is not why people smoke or overeat.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 29, 2009 at 12:59 pm


Sharon pretty much posts the same thing over and over and over--I think she kind of wants to ban the topic.

Premature death isn't the same as causes of death in young people. Complications from obesity and smoking don't kill teenagers. Accidents are no. 1, homicide (including getting shot by cops) is no. 2 and suicide is no. 3 for kids aged 15 to 24. The suicide rate's probably a bit higher as some of the accidents are likely to be suicides.

Either way, suicide's nearly three times as prevalent as the next (and first natural) cause of death--cancer.

My guess is that in Palo Alto, suicide's in the lead for this year--if you're not including people brought to Stanford's medical center. But that's a numbers game in part--very few teenagers die.

So, suicide's not a leading cause of death for the elderly. However, the elderly are actually at the highest risk of suicide. They're just dying of other things in even greater numbers. (Oh, joy.)

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