What can be done to stem tide of teen suicide? Plenty

Updated: 2015-01-26 11:11

By CHANG JUN(China Daily USA)

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For a mom with adolescent children like me, nothing could be sadder than seeing the loss of young lives, especially when those lives are taken away by teens themselves through suicide.

On Saturday, communities in the Bay Area grieved deeply as Palo Alto school officials confirmed that a male Gunn High School senior died by suicide near his residence in the early morning, this following two other fatal train killings in October and December of 2014.

As a community of affluent households and high-achieving schools, Palo Alto in recent years grabbed public attention because of a series of teen suicides. I can't help but ask: What's gone wrong?

Besides extending our deepest heartfelt sympathy to the families and friends of those affected, it's important that we come together to support our youth, their families and their broader social circles.

We should also remember some basic information about suicide: its causes, how we can recognize those at risk and where to get help, suggested doctors Meg Durbin and Shashank Joshi on behalf of the executive committee of the HEARD Alliance, an organization comprised of professionals from Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, which aims at safeguarding teens' mental health.

In an open letter to Gunn High parents on Saturday afternoon, superintendent Max McGee said the school's crisis response team would be meeting Saturday and Sunday and working with district and site staff, school board members and the district's community partners to coordinate support services for students and families throughout the district. Local mental-health organizations - Adolescent Counseling Services, nonprofit grief counseling Kara and Counseling Support Services for Youth - would provide extra support and assistance.

McGee urged parents to reach out to school principals, psychologists, counselors or district staff if they believe their child might be at risk. "Coming so closely to the deaths of other community youth in 2014, this event may make vulnerable youth especially at risk, so we want to remind you of the many resources in our community and share our plan to support our students as they return to school on Monday," McGee wrote.

"As we have mentioned before, please encourage your children to express their feelings to you and/or other trusted adults as well as give them space to reflect as needed," he wrote.

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