Compassionate Neuroscience

Caltrain calls Palo Alto train-track suicides a ‘cluster’

San Jose Mercury News, 8/24/09

SAN CARLOS — With a third Palo Alto student apparently committing suicide on the Caltrain tracks in just four months, railroad officials, educators and mental health professionals described the deaths Monday as an extremely rare “cluster.” […]

“There is a real problem at this high school and in Palo Alto — these children are killing themselves and they’re doing it in a particular way,” said clinical psychiatrist David Arredondo, a national consultant on teen suicide. “We need less blame and more understanding of what’s really going on in the culture of these high schools.”

[…] Also, a group of health care providers has been meeting to analyze the specific circumstances, and determine where there are holes in mental health services for local children in crisis. The group includes psychiatrists, student counselors and other professionals from Palo Alto and Stanford University seeking to dispel the stigma surrounding common mental health problems such as depression.

According to a study, 8.5 percent of high school sophomores in California attempt suicide, which is the third leading cause of death for that demographic, right after homicide. And according to research compiled for the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, 57 Bay Area youths ages 15 to 24 committed suicide in 2007. Of those, 14 were in Santa Clara County and four in San Mateo County. […]


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