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Palo Alto Teen suicides thoughout the years

Original post made by Tom, Woodside, on Sep 3, 2009

I grew up in Palo Alto and recall four teen suicides, I knew 3/4 of these people personally, during my years at Paly. This was between 1986-1990. Is this something that goes on every year?

Comments (8)

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Posted by anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 3, 2009 at 11:35 am

I forget the actual numbers, but suicide is the leading cause of death that is not disease in the US. More people commit suicide than die violently.

I find that pretty scary, how awful and dismal must life look for people who choose to see suicide as their only alternative to feeling bad. I imagine that this statistic has held true for a long time, so it does not appear to be a factor in how we care to define our society, or we would make some kind of effort to change it - wouldn't you think?

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Posted by been there parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2009 at 11:58 am

In my east coast high school we lost at least as many students to suicide. I lost count - too many and too long ago. Although we weren't a pressure cooker like PAUSD, it was an acceptable school district where we studied hard, tried to get into solid colleges, had girlfriend-boyfriend troubles, had parent pressures, tried to fit in with our peers and hoped to get a position on a team. Just like here. Word spread about the suicides, but they weren't quite as public as, say, death by train.

Clearly we should do all we can as a community to support our children so they don't feel so desperate that they convince themselves that ending their life is their only option. But to put all the blame on the school district as some people insist on doing ignores the complexity of our children's lives, and it ignores our responsibility to our - the community's - children.

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Posted by billy
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 3, 2009 at 11:59 am

Yes, suicides have always happened, but we should still devote some resources and effort to try to reduce it. Same goes for drunk driving fatalities, etc.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 3, 2009 at 1:09 pm


That's not correct. The leading non-illness cause of death is accidents. It's the leading cause of death up through about the age of 45, when the illnesses start taking over. Overall, suicide is no. 11, accidents are no. 5. Homicide's no. 14.

Suicide is one of those things that varies dramatically for social reasons. It's almost unknown in some societies and shockingly common in others--it can be tracked with various social factors. Greenland has the highest rate in the world.

Our current rate of youth suicide is wayyyy over the norm--the norm would be one suicide about every five years or so.

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Posted by anon,
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 4, 2009 at 12:03 pm

I should have said that outside of diseases suicide is a leading cause of death, behind accidents it is number 2.

Almost twice as many people kill themselves as are killed in crimes.

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Posted by anon,
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 4, 2009 at 12:13 pm

By the way, they also do not like to publish just how many people die from medical/surgical mistakes which is very high... in the U.S., between 44,000 and 98,000 patients die each year as a result of medical errors, which exceeds the 8th leading cause of death (suicide)

My point, Ohlone Par, is that one would think that if we cared about our people, that maybe it would be a more widely known statistic that so many commit suicide, and maybe a bit more behind why people do it, and how we could stop it.

My intuition would be that we just do not care to anything to really look at or change anything, and maybe we cannot, given our system. We used to be much better at hiding the real nature of the world from our kids than we are now, and looking at the state of the world, and the US, we have jumped in the way we manage most systems, for instance the health care system, from qualified experts to financial analysts. Does that indicate something?

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 4, 2009 at 5:10 pm


Suicide's one of those things where there's actually a pretty large body of research--in part because it lends itself well to certain kinds of analysis--i.e. Emile Durkheim's Suicide.

That said, we do seem to avoid dealing with prevention in any kind of meaningful way. I think, in part, it's because we actually have some pretty mixed feelings about the issue. Suicide among the elderly meets with a certain sort of approval--as can be seen by the rah-rah comments on the murder-suicide of the Woodside couple. At the same time, self-murder and suicidal depression are very frightening--and there's a taboo about discussing it--as we've also seen here.

The media doesn't publicize suicides because it may lead to more suicides. But by concealing suicide, we avoid dealing with prevention.

We know one suicide was prevented because there was an aware parent and an aware passerby. That kind of awareness, by the way, is reason right there to educate teachers.

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Posted by anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2009 at 12:44 am

I'm tending to want to discount your remarks about suicide since you make what I consider a mistake of lumping all people who end their lives with suicide. While that is probably a valid interpretation of the definition, there is a huge difference between an old couple to decide to end their lives because they have health issues that will not get better, and teenage children who do not know and cannot see any better.

I think we are taught to ignore other people and to not care about them. For example if one wants their neighbors or fellow citizens to have health care they are viciously villainized for it by being labelled a socialist. It has been programmed into our culture.

We have had some very extreme shifts in our society in the past genertions. The virtual disintegration of the family, and an isolation that is denoted by a statistic I recently read. 30 year ago when they asked people how many good friends they had, real confidants, 3 was the average response. Today the answer is 0.

I don't pretend to be able to explain all this, but I do think that just as we do not care to make problems for ourselves thiniking about what we could be doing with the planet by burning so much fossile fuel, we also do not know how we are disturbing society by the changes we have induced in people by changing their sociologial environment and programming them to be more attached to corporations and products than other people.

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

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