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Possible train suicide at W. Meadow Friday night

Original post made on Aug 22, 2009

A possible suicide or fatality involving a Caltrain occurred about 10:30 p.m. Friday night at West Meadow Drive in Palo Alto. Details were not immediately available from Caltrain or the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department transit police, which handles train-related cases.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, August 22, 2009, 9:45 AM

Comments (114)

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Posted by seriously
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 22, 2009 at 10:12 am

We know that the police knows who it was. why cant they just tell the community. Finding out after school starts willl be hard for everyone, we deserve to know


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Posted by Greg
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 22, 2009 at 10:14 am

The police always try to notify the family before releasing the name to the media.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2009 at 10:30 am

What makes this more suspicious is the fact that a group of Gunn students started digging up an old weekly article and started 3 threads on Town Square in the hours following this.


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Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 22, 2009 at 10:38 am

I don't think the Gunn kids knew they were digging up an old article. I just think they didn't notice the July date since today is also the 22nd. The kids knew about the fatality last night and were talking about it on facebook. Obviously it would be better for all if there were actual facts available (give it time) but the kids have their own way of sharing information and often it is eerily accurate.


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Posted by saw it
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 22, 2009 at 10:41 am

can you expand more about the Gunn Students digging up the article and the threads please?


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Posted by Abe Froman
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2009 at 10:48 am

I was biking home last night around Midnight and the whole crossing was taped off. There was a car in the right hand turn lane coming off of Alma. One of my neighbors said that a person jumped from the car and in front of the train. I don't know if it was an attempt or a success (poor use of the word). It's getting ridiculous and is just very very sad.


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Posted by Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 11:25 am

all of this is very, very sad.
my support and love goes out to all the family members and friends of this person.


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Posted by Tyler Hanley
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Aug 22, 2009 at 11:29 am

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

We are working on getting more information about this incident, but have not been able to reach the Caltrain public information officer or someone from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department transit police. We will post more details as soon as we are able.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2009 at 11:41 am

It's clear - we need to tunnel under each rail crossing.


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Posted by Tyler Hanley
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Aug 22, 2009 at 11:44 am

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

We just received confirmation that it was a 16-year-old girl who was killed last night. We will post more information as soon as possible.


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Posted by Zeke
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 11:47 am

Anyone who thinks holding the name from the community will help is going nowhere, fast. Anyone in the school who isn't on vacation somewhere knew within a day of it happening. Even the incoming freshman know about it. It just makes it more traumatic that the 'adults' feel it necessary to try and keep it quiet.


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Posted by Greg
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 22, 2009 at 11:51 am

Railroad crossing grade separations, security cameras, etc. are all nice to have.

However, the first line of defense against teen suicides has to be friends and family taking care of each other. If you have any suspicion that a friend or family member is in trouble, take the effort to reach out to them and personally make sure they get the help they need. Sometimes these people can hide their condition from some people, but they probably cannot hide from everyone.


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Posted by Annonymous
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 11:55 am

Tunneling the train wont help because people will still find ways to kill themselves.


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Posted by George
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 22, 2009 at 11:57 am

While adding a pedestrian tunnel is a good idea--it would not have any effect on teen suicides.

This comes to three attempts that succeeded and one that failed.

There has been little media follow up in these cases--to see if there are common elements in these events.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 11:57 am

I hope that resident feels really
badly about the 'suspicious' comment


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Posted by Student
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:00 pm

The "Gunn kids digging up an article" was just because some kids were passing around a link on Facebook as soon as word got out that this happened, and so people were reading it and reacting to it without seeing that the article was way outdated.


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Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Zeke, there is a difference between respecting the privacy of the family and withholding the name from the community. If it were your family member who was killed, wouldn't you want to hear it first from the police who had the facts, rather than read about it online with associated speculation and rumor?


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Posted by zageimu
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:05 pm

It's obvious the kids are doing it at the same spot because of the significance of that spot. Not saying that the rest of the tracks aren't dangerous, but from the eyes of a mentally impaired teenager, you can see why you'd pick the E.Meadow crossing over some other crossing like Charleston or something.


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Posted by derp
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:08 pm

So... anyone still against the raised express-train idea because it will "cut the city in half?"


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Posted by Student
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:12 pm

I sort of doubt that the past two suicides and past attempt were from stress.[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I just hope the parents don't call it all academic stress and then place a bunch of pressure on the teachers like they did the last couple times, once school starts.


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Posted by B
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:19 pm

I highly doubt suicides are ever because of just ONE thing. It is probably a mix of a million different things. Therefore, just because no one killed themselves solely because of academic stress doesn't mean it's a factor that shouldn't be addressed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:21 pm

We need to build a bike bride over that crossing. Too many kids take that route to high school in the morning.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hey B,
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:21 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:26 pm

I don't feel bad about the "suspicious" comment on my post. My intention was just that, the kids knew there was a suicide and they were looking for information. The fact that three threads started shows that the information had rapidly got round the kids and they all started hunting here for more information.

The reason I used the word "suspicious" was that the three threads coupled with the information that there was an accident showed me that the kids were ahead of the rest of us in finding these things out.

If that is "bad" then I apologize.


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Posted by stanford terrace inn
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Hey everyone. This is a really rough issue that we feel close too...
Web Link

If you read that blog, you will see 18 year Palo Alto Hotel GM Barbara Pressman sort of lay her heart on her sleeve about recent issues, not including this sad incident. There is a lot of helpful support and data there for anyone asking questions... so check it out and know this affects all parts of the community; from family, to friends, businesses and more. What's more is that we think a dialogue needs to be opened up about this, rather than the status quo trying to ignore the tradegy by not talking about it further than a news headline. Let's get the community talking about this issue!


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Reducing the opportunity is known to reduce the impulse suicides. Ask the council why they refuse to consider closure. They have no problem closing off streets or bumping them to sooth a few irate constituents, but I guess actually saving lives does not have the cachet of banning plastic bags. Go ahead, ask them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by really?
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Is it that you care more about how your money gets spent than how stress may affect a student's choice to kill themselves?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:30 pm

no, what's important is the people who have to deal with this AND continue their lives. the parents aren't pressuring the schools because of students who have passed, but because they're worried about their own kids' stress levels.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by james michael
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:38 pm

police and fire are one of this cites largest expense the police need to help with this, reinstate the patrols,
we need to immediately ad video surveillance ,
we need trespass signs posted clearly,
and somehow we need to have these young adults re-set there thinking.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MARTHA G.
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:38 pm

As a long-time employee in the classrooms of the PAUSD, I was saddened and disheartened to read this terrible news. My heart goes out to all the student's friends and families, and to whomever loved her, not to mention the community-at-large. There is help available here in Palo Alto and generally in the Bay Area for people who see no hope or happy future for themselves. The difficulty is getting this help to the people who need it most.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Be realistic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:39 pm

The people I feel most sorry for are the Train Engineers who must witness these events. Meanwhile a Caltrain's Engineer was able to save a 65 year old woman who jumped in front of his train from the San Antonio Station. No amount of tunnelling or bike bridges will save an individual who jumps off a train station infront of an oncoming train.




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Posted by student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:40 pm

We need to put security Cams all over there.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by james michael
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:41 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sad resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:45 pm

God rest her soul and give her family strength to get through this very tragic event.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:46 pm

> Reducing the opportunity is known to reduce the impulse suicides.


Walter it 100% correct on this. I think building a bike bride over the tracks will reduce that impulse suicides. That crossing has become our "Golden Gate Bridge" and we need to do something about it.

Many of our kids bike to Gunn High School and they need to get across those tracks somehow.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Yo James
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Saddened
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:50 pm

How sad to hear of this latest suicide. Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of this young girl.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:53 pm

My guess is that the students distribution is in the shape of "M". On one top, they are those from well-to-do and/or powerful families. On another top, they are academically over-achieving students. Those sandwiched in between are under high pressure.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by **
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:53 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Being a student at Gunn I don't think people should assume they know why a person chooses to commit suicide. Even the child's parents may not know the full story.

Usually there are many factors that lead to suicide. Gunn is a highly competitive environment and even though she was "already secure in terms of future academics" does not mean the academic stress was not one of the factors. I'm not saying it was, but don't assume you know everything.


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Posted by to james
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:58 pm

we don't "need" to do anything to the stupid crossings. the only thing we should be concerned about right now are the people who are affected. thank you all who have extended your well-wishes. i support and ditto.

and i'm sure there's a better way than to rudely label sufferers as losers. like seriously?? would you want to call a loved one a "loser" when you just lost them this way? you talk like those people who were angrily insulting sonya a few months ago.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:01 pm

From a student perspective I would like to ask all of you who are posting the reasons why people commit suicide and the reason behind the past ones to yourselves, that is something very personal to them and should not be placed on a public website. It is bad enough that our town is already posting it as "another suicide." It is bad enough that we even have to say "another" again. Clearly the stuff that we have been doing in our schools and our communities have not been working. We cant just worry about this for the one week after and think that it is going to go away. Something very drastic has to change in our schools and it needs to be done soon. It is so disgusting some of the things some people are saying on this article and I would like to say there is another place for you to say it. Please do not post it here, that is not what this comment section is for.


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Posted by Ticked off
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:02 pm

What happened to the police patrols stationed there?


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Posted by Former Resident
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:02 pm

We have failed to provide an environment where by young people can flourish, grow, be happy and well accepted. And then not feel the need to take such drastic steps.


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Posted by Unchallenged
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:05 pm

I rue the day when Gunn's AP environment is like that of... that other high school. The bureaucracy of their system is simply horrible, with many kids only able to take an AP class in their senior year. If I were at Paly, I wouldn't have been able to take the classes I love. (AP Chem, AP Bio, and AP Physics C)


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Posted by another student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:09 pm

i completely agree with student. keep theories to yourselves.
and the multiple people who have suggested building an underpass or tunnel-ARE YOU SERIOUS? that would help if the suicides were actually accidents. but they were apparently not. someone who is determined to kill themselves is not going to think "oh well its difficult to get to the train tracks...i guess im just not going to kill myself then". besides there are hundreds of train tracks. and if not the train, im sure there are plenty of other ways. and security cameras? is that a joke? how is that going to help whatsoever.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:14 pm

What is really sick is this society which values material
posession and "accomplishment" over relationships and has
this extremely misguided notion of "individual liberty".
Its time America started looking towards older societies for
guidance. Societies where parents and grandparents are loved
and respected and family and character counts more than
the American definition of success.


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Posted by D
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I send the family my sincerest condolences; every death in our community is a grave loss.

And I feel that the people talking in this thread should really watch what they're saying. We should be supportive of the family and friends involved, not argue insensitively about some retarded tunnel, tax money, and extrapolating WhoWhatWhyHow with facts that we don't even know.


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Posted by a concerned parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:23 pm

2 points:

1. I am so saddened by yet another suicide. As a parent I feel that we are responsible for such tragedies and we need to really come together as a community. But I wonder about the teens. Do they have responsibilities? Should they also take responsibilities of their own lives? While we are trying to be supportive and understanding, I don't know if kids are getting the message that committing suicide is completely irresponsible and unkind to people they are leaving behind?

2. I know fencing off the railroad track is not going to be take care of all the problem, but what IS going to take care of all the problem? I will be very happy to see the tracks fenced off and tunnels/overpasses built, and will be very happy to pay my own share of taxes to support that. If it prevents ONE suicide, it is worth it.


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Posted by sleep
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:25 pm

I think parents should get their kids to sleep more. it helps get rid of some of the emotional issues and stress that contribute to stuff like this.


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Posted by annoyed and bitter
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:29 pm

stop.trying.to.come.up.with.solutions.
NOW.
they're pointless.
go comfort the people who have lost a loved one if you have that much time on your hands.
seriously.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Beard
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:33 pm

None of us are psychologists. So dont pretend to be. Alot of Sleep has actaly been proven to increase depression sometimes, just as too little sleep can lead to depression. Our thoughts should be with the family now


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Posted by student
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Does anyone know when the name and detail will be public?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by STOP
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:45 pm

STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS. HAVEN'T YOU HEARD OF SUICIDE CONTAGION. DON'T GET MORE KIDS HYPED UP ABOUT THE ATTENTION THEY WILL GET IF THEY DO THIS. KIDS ARE PROBABLY WONDERING, HOW WILL PEOPLE REACT WHEN I JUMP IN FRONT OF THE TRAIN? DON'T GIVE THIS MORE ATTENTION THAN IT DESERVES.


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Posted by Mr. B
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:54 pm

There doesn't seem to be an appreciation for the fact that those who committ suicide are in great mental pain and anguish. Obviously if they were in their right mind they wouldn't do it.

Calling them stupid or putting labels on them is violent
and does not address their humanity.


Depression and stress and a multitude of irrational stories victims tell themselves can lead to this. Obviously she did not have someone she felt save to confide in and or she did not see the need for help as she had made up her mind to use this "solution". All such irrational behaviors are considered a "solution" and make sense to the victim as a way to try and meet a need. We all have needs but we can differ in the strategies for meeting those needs.

The community, other students and family should try to be aware when someone is disconnected from themself and others and offer to really listen, see and understand them. Depression, sadness, unhappiness are the result of unmet needs. It's important that these needs be uncovered and addressed.

I would offer to lend an ear to teens who need a compassionate and trained listener but not sure in what way I could set that up. I don't want to make it complicated.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:55 pm

There are clearly many reasons for suicides and yes,I think the people who are determined to commit suicide will eventually find a way to do it. But there are many for whom it is an impulsive act of desperation which could be prevented by securing the train crossings which hundreds of kids use on their daily way to and from school. We need a 24 hour guard now, start the process of securing the crossings by building tunnels or bridges, while we show our children that we love and support them always. And yes, schools need to refocus on the whole person, not just academic performance.

I am shocked and saddened by this girl's suicide and my thoughts go out to her family, friends and the Gunn Community.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Our whole community is a bit messed up. If you look through all of these comments, you notice a trend.

People either care about how suicide hurts our community or people worry about the kids, about all of the stress because it might make them commit suicide.

Now think about it. How selfish is it to talk about the vitality of our community at times like these. Sure, our community has been damaged by these events, but it's not our failing community that needs attention, it's specific people.

People start to worry because they are scared that their kids might commit suicide. Some worry that more suicides will hurt our community. All of this worry and all of this care is good intentioned, but how sincere is it. What if none of this happened? It makes you wonder if people are really concerned about the suicidal trend or the kids themselves?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 2:06 pm

"I am shocked and saddened by this girl's suicide and my thoughts go out to her family, friends and the Gunn Community."

Was she from Gunn?

I can't imagine the pain and sorrow the family and friends are suffering...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by nameless
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 2:16 pm

As a recent graduate and a friend of Sonya's, I know how badly this hurts. I'm so sorry-- I don't know who you are yet, but I send everything I possibly could to your friends and family.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2009 at 2:19 pm

The problem with these recent suicides, both teen AND adult, is that we all feel so helpless. Pointing fingers, discussing theories about train tracks and their availability, assessing blame on a train does nothing to get around the fact that if a person is determined to take their own life, they will do so.

There are so many factors that go into figuring out why people do the unthinkable. I mean, how many of us can really contemplate such an act? And, why is this happening predominantly in Palo Alto? One would almost expect a rise in the suicide rate to coincide with the economy crashing down about us like a heavy dark oppressive cloud, but that would account for more adult suicides. Which surprisingly we have not experienced. So then, why such young people?

My own feeling is that the current generation of kids, 25 and under, are accustomed to instant gratification. When they were little they were cosseted and everything they wanted was handed to them. They were taught at home and in schools that they were special, unique, and they were always a winner. They were lovable, and everybody was going to love them. Some say no, I didn't do that, but think back, even it it wasn't always obvious, a lot of baby boomers went overboard to make their childrens lives as comfortable as possible, emotionally and materially. It didn't seem a bad thing at the time, but in retrospect I know I personally have regretted a few of my own actions bringing up my kids. I believe that in us taking away all pain, we have raised kids who can't stand up to adversity as well as we could, or our parents, or grandparents. Once these kids get into the real world they find out that they ARE special, but only to the people who love them. To the rest of the world, they are just another person. Never having had to experience disappointment, they now don't have the tools to deal with reality. They withdraw, become increasingly isolated or secretive, then one day, they just give up.

I don't know how to undo what is done, but I guess an open dialogue with our kids is a good start. I have run into a lot of kids lately who have heard much about the economy, and are fearing if they will be able to attend college, that their parents won't be able to pay for it. That is causing much stress. If that is going to be the case, perhaps parents should sit down with their kids and start reviewing alternatives for paying for college. That way these kids I see so worried will feel that at least there is a plan in place. Gives them a sense of control over their own lives.

I don't know what drove this young girl, or the other kids before her to such desperation, but I do know the obvious; that each one of them was weighed under an emotional burden that seemed insurmountable. It makes me very sad. For them, for their families and friends, for the train operators, for the emergency personnel, for Palo Alto, for all of us.


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Posted by Lee M
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 2:21 pm

She was from Gunn, and I believe she was going to be a Sophomore (I very well may be wrong with the latter bit of information).

I moved to college 2 weeks, ago, and still managed to find out within 2 hours, entirely through Facebook.
If you think that it's bizarre or ridiculous that kids were talking about it so quickly on the threads, you're highly mistaken. With both the other 2 suicides, I knew the day of; and with the attempt, I certainly knew within the next day, but I think it was that night, I found out. The community is small enough that word will spread, especially since there's such wide use of online social networking.


[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
We need the youth to understand that occasionally there are hard times and depression does come about, but that we can do something about it. You don't necessarily need to just grin and bear.


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Posted by palyparent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 2:27 pm

I just crossed the tracks at E. Meadow a short while ago. If it had been safe, I would have pulled over and thanked the officer who was stationed there in his police car. Yes, we all feel helpless, and yet perhaps the one practical thing we can do right now is to watch the tracks, and perhaps, maybe, deter some teenager's impulse to "copycat." So thank you to the officers, and all who are, right now, watching out for our children.


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Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Regarding pedestrian train crossings: We all realize there is no single, simple solution to suicidal depression, but due to a lack of urban planning, we have created an attractive nuisance that needs to mitigated. We need tunnels under train tracks, just as we need guard rails on bridges, and pedestrian overpasses above freeways and other man-made structures. It is no different than keeping loaded guns out of the house, and lethal medications out of arms reach. Train underpasses need to be built --- out of respect for our children, our citizens, our families, and for the train passengers and conductors who must experience these gruesome deaths. Among other things, we must correct a badly designed man-made environment where an unstoppable vehicle plows through our pedestrian walkways all day long.


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Posted by Sam
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 2:39 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Sarah
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 2:43 pm

To Sam: Just because we have been raised in an affluent community, doesn't mean that depression doesn't exist. Honestly, it's really none of your business whether one of them was over a highschool relationship. Obviously there's a problem, we just need to find a way to stop the hurting.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by What happened to the safety patrols?
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 22, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Why did the police stop monitoring this crossing so quickly?

They had been regularly parking a car at this particular crossing, and then stopped.


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Posted by doesitmatter
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 2:45 pm

It's peer pressure. High School. High school is never a fun place to be, unless you're known and loved by everyone. If you're a nobody you feel like shit.
I think every high school should come together and stop cliques and backtalk and drama.
Even if Gunn students say there are no cliques or drama, that's bullshit. There is. Or this wouldn't be happening.


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Posted by Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 2:45 pm

This is a very sensitive issue and a lot of people, including myself, are scared. However, I believe that rather than trying to figure out what led this girl to her decision, that we should focus more of our energy as a community to support the family now in grieving.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:01 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:02 pm

The Gunn community, I feel bad if it is a Gunn High School student. Last semester they went through so much with two suicides right in a row and now a third one if it is a Gunn Student. May whoever it is rest in peace and the family be supported by a loving community.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Regular Commuter
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:03 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunn student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:07 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by gunn grad
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:13 pm

i am so sorry to hear this, and my heart goes out to the victim and her family.

the recent string of tragedies has more to do with the copycat effect than any thing inherent in Gunn or Palo Alto. to address the problem, there's been some talk of "de-stressing" gunn, presumably by making kids take fewer AP or honors classes. no doubt people will attribute it to the "over" achieving culture and the supposed pressure that goes along with it, but a teen's mind is complex and involves many more emotions than school pressure.

regardless, the myth of a hyper pressured gunn is simply false. no one is forced to take APs or honors classes and kids choose to take what they take. i never sensed overwhelming stress from academics in my time at gunn, and that is true for almost everyone, from the constantly-tutored high achievers to the kids who care less about getting all A's, and people in between. gunn and palo alto are great and one of a kind precisely because of that.

While we should certainly aim to do our utmost to help those who are somehow left out of the support network and the positive environment that kids deserve, blaming these tragedies on gunn's high achieving culture and instituting any efforts to "reduce stress at school" would be misguided. this is a high achieving school that is driven by high achieving kids, attempting to change that would be missing the real things we should be addressing to prevent these tragedies from happening again


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Posted by Etaion Shrdlu
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Underpasses, anyone? Compare the suicide rate at California Avenue or Embarcadero with the south Palo Alto grade crossings. The city fathers seems not to have realized that anything south of Embarcadero is a busy neighborhood, unsuited for grade crossings. Try making it difficult for upset kids to kill themselves, and see what happens. It occurs to me that undergrounding all trains, high-speed, commuter, etc. is an appealing long-term fix.


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Posted by AGM
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:15 pm

To marie: a person who is so emotionally torn that they feel death is there only option isnt going to be stopped by a tunnel. as someone who has been on the brink of suicide, i can tell you this. if a tunnel were to be built that prohibits a depressed one's suicide, the depressed one will just find another way onto the tracks.

all there is between the tracks and alma is a flimsy fence (which is cut open in some areas, and not present at all in others). hell, the houses on the park side of the tracks dont even stop people. i used to live right next the tracks and i remember different times where teenagers would just walk thru my backyard to get out of or into the tracks.

the point is, tunnels wont do anything other than waste money.


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Posted by Are you serious?
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:17 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Darwin
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:20 pm

To all of you who are saying that these things will be prevented if we do some sort of overpass/underpass, police monitoring, etc...

You cannot deathproof the world, especially from those who are seeking it!


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Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:24 pm

I am very sorry for the family and friends of this lovely girl, whoever she is. She deserved to have a much longer life. I would like to see any of the institutions involved with teenagers - school, church - address the issues of depression, how to recognize it in others, and what to do - much more than obviously has been done. Teenagers have not been alive long enough to realize that no matter how bad things seem, a brighter day is coming. It is up to the adults around them to help them through the tough times no matter what causes them.


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Posted by Jane
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Peer pressure, academic pressure, community pressure, dig underground, raise the platform, where are the policemen, where are the firemen! Yep, go ahead and BLAME IT ON OTHERS. All I see now adays are people who don't care about anyone else but themselves, we live in a community where people, adults and children alike, have no respect or courtesy. Its all ME, ME, ME. Adults are rude and they teach the young it is okay to be so. Everyone hides behind email, text, blogs, etc, so that you don't have to do a face to face. Bunch of cowards...and here you are throwing blame all around. Who did these kids who committed suicide have to model after or to talk to...and I mean TALK face to face, not by email, facebook, whatever, but TALK.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:29 pm



If we learned anything from the prior Gunn suicides it is that these discussion threads do no good and increase the risk.

The WHO has very clear, evidence based guidelines on how do handle these events.

There should be no memorials
No pictures
No interviews
Just publish the name and let the family bury the dead.

Stanford and PAMC have offered qualified psychotherapists to talk with Gunn students.

Local churches have launched a project to address the issue of teen and other suicides.

I suggest Paloaltoonline end these postings and just report the basic fact of the matter.


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Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:38 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by hmm
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Well... Sharon, I don't think these increase the risk. Yes, these may glorify suicides in some gory way, but...no memorial?? That is an insult to the dead, and plus, it is comforting to the friends and family. Although your point has some sense, it is still very insensitive.


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Posted by at above
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:40 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by why
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:46 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by former gunn student
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Several years ago I read an article from Sports Illustrated about a small school that experienced five suicides in three years.

While it was a different situation, a different town, there are lessons from their struggle that we can apply to our own.

If you're interested: Web Link


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Posted by umm
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:48 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:51 pm



The evidence from the World Health Organization WHO is very clear.

These sorts of discussions increase the risk of contagious suicide.

The WHO is very clear on how the press should minimize the reporting of these matters to prevent contagion.

In an out break last year in the UK the social network sites also monitored and filtered postings about the suicides, in that town in South Wales 20 young people killed themselves over a 2 year period.

It is time to close these postings down and leave it to parents, Stanford/PAMF therapists and local Churches to handle the issues.


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Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Where is the overly sensitive censor now? Some of these comments should be wiped from this page immediately.

Those of you who say stress is not a factor aren't being honest with the rest of us. The school isn't driven by "high achieving kids", it's driven by parents and a community with high expectations. Those kids don't just become over achievers, it's part of how they are raised and who they are. It's part of Palo Alto as a whole.

Stop talking about tunnels and fences and get someone over to Gunn ASAP to talk to these students about this short sighted permanent solution to temporary problems.


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Posted by m
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:52 pm

I completely agree with Jane.
sharon- no memorial? really?? if someone close to you committed suicide, would you wanna just pretend you never happened???

gunny- hella immature, seriously. not helping.

and regular commuter- I hope karma gets you back, people like you are one of the reasons why depression happens

come on guys. don't you have anything better to do than argue ?? we should be comforting people.


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Posted by maybe
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:54 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by gunn
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 22, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Gunn is a great school. Don't tarnish the image.


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Posted by Rogue Trader
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 22, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Rogue Trader is a registered user.

It was earlier noted on this forum that WHO has identified factors that can lead to "contagious suicide."

The CDC has come to the exact same conclusions. Brief excerpt:

"Suicide rates among adolescents and young adults have increased sharply in recent decades

One risk factor that has emerged from this research is suicide "contagion," a process by which exposure to the suicide or suicidal behavior of one or more persons influences others to commit or attempt suicide. In particular, newspaper and television coverage of suicide has been associated with a statistically significant excess of suicides. The effect of contagion appears to be strongest among adolescents.

A set of general concerns about and recommendations for reducing the possibility of media-related suicide contagion were developed at this workshop, and characteristics of news coverage that appear to foster suicide contagion were described. This report summarizes these concerns, recommendations, and characteristics and provides hypothetical examples of news reports that have high and low potential for causing suicide contagion"

Web Link

Wikipedia also provides some starting material for those who are interested in learning more about copycat suicide/suicide contagion

Web Link

Finally, I would note that the CDC discourages "overly simplistic" explanations for suicide attempts.

It seems to me that many in this forum are engaging in overly simplistic explanations for this unfortunate event.


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 22, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Downtowner is a registered user.

Rogue Trader, the Wikipedia article you referenced was very helpful. I encourage others to go there as well. Here is the link again: Web Link


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Posted by parentof3
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 4:58 pm

parentof3 is a registered user.

I noticed PA OnLine had deleted any reference to the girl's age. A few other news organizations are now reporting the girl was 13. Does anyone know?


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Posted by ladykahlo
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 22, 2009 at 5:10 pm

ladykahlo is a registered user.

the WHO also says this:
School-based interventions involving crisis management, self-esteem enhancement and the development of coping skills and healthy decision making have been demostrated to reduce the risk of suicide among the youth.
AND THIS:
Worldwide, the prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to basically a lack of awareness of suicide as a major problem and the taboo in many societies to discuss openly about it. In fact, only a few countries have included prevention of suicide among their priorities.
Web Link

I think it is sad that we have been reduced to having these community discussions on the internet, where no face-to-face dialoging can take place.


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Posted by labellehollar
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 22, 2009 at 5:18 pm

labellehollar is a registered user.

I just read the Sports Illustrated article. It was very interesting. I would like to share two quotes that I think apply here:
"Two groups of people are most at risk for suicide clusters: overachievers and underachievers," and
"The stress induced by failure is one of the risk factors suicide prevention experts look for."
Failure is certainly different things to different people. I once heard a Gunn student say she had "failed" a class when she got a C. A teenager can perceive himself as a failure when to the whole world he has everything going for him.
Please reach out to teens in your life - past your own kids to their friends. We all have to help out here.


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Posted by Just Me
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 22, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Just Me is a registered user.

I am disheartened to hear of another death at the W Meadow Cal Train crossing.

A PAUSD survey of the Gunn and Palo Alto high school students in 2007 year revealed a high percentage of suicidal thoughts in the student population and in 17 cases they had a fully constructed suicide plan. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I request of anyone reading this blog and concerned with establishing educational intervention classes to contact the PAUSD Superintendent, 650 329-3737, to voice your concern.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I pledge to not use Churchill, Meadow or Charleston for a year after any death at those crossings. If we all shun those crossings, the decline in use may make closing more feasible. Drive an extra mile to save a life. Detour for de kids? Ask the traffic engineer what the effect on other crossings would be if the three at grades were closed. No one is off the hook here.
While I have written of my disgust with politicians making photo ops out of disasters, I think every council member should, before the next meeting, go take a look and then ask themselves if they would approve of a new crossing if a death rate similar to the existing crossings was projected for that new one? [someone explain this to Paul]


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Posted by MJM
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 8:30 pm

MJM is a registered user.

A friend, who's kids go to Los Altos High School, told me there have been suicides there as well in the last year, but they have not been covered by the newspapers because they did not happen in "public". Because the Palo Alto suicides happened in a public area, they are part of public record. (Caltrain also has to invstigate every death to make sure it was not accidental.) I was told that the schools do not want the papers to report on suicides to avoid the "copycat" phenomemon mentioned in an earlier post. In light of the research, this approach makes sense. But it is impossible to not report the deaths on the tracks. Maybe that is the allure of the trains for teens. People will know--it cannot be kept quiet.

What a shame! Our prayers are with this girl's family.


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Posted by Gunn parent 877
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Gunn parent 877 is a registered user.

Here's what I think, every K-12 classroom in this town should have a sign on the wall saying "YOU are irreplaceable." It should become part of the Palo Alto mindset as much as diversity and recycling and the Baylands are. Discussion as age appropriate. Please feel free to circulate this idea widely.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 22, 2009 at 9:39 pm

JustMe is a registered user.

My wife alerted me to the fact that someone here had posted using my handle. I have been posting here, off and on, for a while now using "JustMe" as a handle. Please note the post above from "Just Me" is not a post by me. While I don not find that post objectionable, I wish it had been done under a handle that was a little more unique.


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Posted by CeeMiShell
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2009 at 9:55 pm

CeeMiShell is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by momof2
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 10:24 pm

momof2 is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by MiSmi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2009 at 10:35 pm

MiSmi is a registered user.

I don't know the point of putting a police officer there. Do you expect them to jump in front of a train to stop a suicide?


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Posted by nomellini
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2009 at 11:18 pm

nomellini is a registered user.

Palo Alto
I dont see this happening in other communities, Dont you feel somewhat responsible?.


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Posted by gabindoh
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 23, 2009 at 12:47 am

gabindoh is a registered user.

It's difficult to comment on this story because we do not know the reason behind the girl's death. We can not assume what the reason is, and therefore we should stop discussing it until there is more information. Also, to Walter_E_Wallis, your reasoning behind avoiding the crossings makes no sense whatsoever. And the idea of building a bike bridge over the Charleston and Meadow crossings is ridiculous; if a high school student is unable to use common sense on when to cross the train tracks, they probably shouldn't be in high school...


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2009 at 2:24 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Sorry, Gabby, but my first electricians job was replacing another electrician with over 30 years experience. He safetied a high voltage circuit breaker, 4th from the left in an open rear switchboard, then went behind the board and started to service the 3rd, still alive breaker. He had common sense, but he was distracted, and dead. Now, even I, Journeyman electrician and electrical engineer, cannot make that mistake because they don't allow that construction any more.
My reason for shunning those crossings is to lower the traffic count to make their closing more feasible. Even Paul should understand that. You do what you can, Gabby. Perfection is the enemy of good enough.


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Posted by joey
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 23, 2009 at 5:07 am

joey is a registered user.

This is very tragic.
A police officer at the scene, a bridge crossing, an underpass, or a tunnel for the train would not have prevented this.
Our responsibility is to educate our children.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2009 at 7:21 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Our problem is to educate the politicians. The number of 3 fingered carpenters before the day of guards and interlocks was a testament to the fact training isn't enough around hazards. The inability of local politicians to even consider solutions that don't come from the top cause me to question the efficacy of a liberal education.


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Posted by Rogue Trader
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 23, 2009 at 8:34 am

Rogue Trader is a registered user.

Poster "Nomellini" wrote "I dont see this happening in other communities, Dont you feel somewhat responsible?"

(Reply) If you look a few posts above yours, you will see someone wrote:

"A friend, whose kids go to Los Altos High School, told me there have been suicides there as well in the last year, but they have not been covered by the newspapers because they did not happen in "public". Because the Palo Alto suicides happened in a public area, they are part of public record. (Caltrain also has to investigate every death to make sure it was not accidental.)

I was told that the schools do not want the papers to report on suicides to avoid the "copycat" phenomenon mentioned in an earlier post. In light of the research, this approach makes sense. But it is impossible to not report the deaths on the tracks. Maybe that is the allure of the trains for teens. People will know--it cannot be kept quiet." (end quote)

I will add that there were about 6 student suicides that happened in my 4 years of high school, and in most cases, I did not even know they occurred, because the incidents were kept private and out of the public eye.


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Posted by this is absurd
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 23, 2009 at 10:16 am

this is absurd is a registered user.

all those who said something giving love to the family kudos because thats what is needed

sharon a memorial service should be done by the family but i agree it doesnt need to be one of these public events where people show up who never even met the girl

and to everyone else who is pointing fingers and trying to find solutions
stop
please
like many have said... if a kid wants to kill themselves they will... regardless of how many fences seem to be in their way
leave it alone
stop posting to each other being critical and guessing at what is the cause of these suicides... stop saying we need dialogue and just start creating it!
talk to your kids
get of the *** computer and talk to them
play with them, give them a hug, give them a kiss, tell them they are special
tell another kid that they are special
it doesnt take much to make a young person feel good but you sure are not going to do it here talking about how much more taxes you are willing to pay to improve the railway


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ahiogha
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 23, 2009 at 1:04 pm

ahiogha is a registered user.

oh please. adults dont know anything about this stuff. talking wont helpp. if anything it will make things worse. if a kid wanted to die, theyde make it happen. and if a kid wanted to do drugs, do you actually think "just say no" would help? of course not. you guys may have good intentions, but are so, so wrong.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by labellehollar
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 23, 2009 at 1:57 pm

labellehollar is a registered user.

Dear Ahiogha -
Some of us adults have lived through depression and/or suicide attempts - and from this group I would like to say that talking sometimes does help if it is to the right person - someone who can help you. Action is better than words. Going to a professional who can help you get on meds to correct imbalances in your brain that cause depression, or can help you with a bad home situation or school situation is action I am talking about.
The adults in your life are only talking because they are very worried about these tragic suicides. Each one is loss of a precious life that had so much to experience ahead and to give the world.


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Posted by this is absurd
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 23, 2009 at 3:07 pm

this is absurd is a registered user.

just to clarify when i say talk i mean just talk at all... not about suicide not about drugs cuz i know that kids hate having that talk with parents... i just mean show them you love them... i believe that people who know they are loved and valued are less at risk


 +   Like this comment
Posted by bellag
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 23, 2009 at 6:45 pm

bellag is a registered user.

She was a friend of my daughter's.

Please honor this tragic loss by performing an act of kindness in her honor.


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