Teen suicide epidemic sweeps NorCal

PALO ALTO, Calif. In all four of the suicides, the students jumped into the path of an oncoming commuter train. While concerned parents are seeking answers, authorities in the affluent town of Palo Alto are quick to point out that this is not a suicide pact, but rather a suicide cluster.

At /*Henry M. Gunn High School*/, families and teachers are coming together to find answers and hopefully prevent more deaths.

The suicide prevention signs are on every corner of a Palo Alto /*Caltrain*/ intersection, but for the fourth time in six months, a student from Gunn High School ignored the message and used the tracks to commit suicide.

"I am very upset," said Gaona Mendioca, parent of a Gunn High School student. "I passed this morning and I saw with my kids and said, 'Oh no, this doesn't look good, this is not good.'"

Mental health professionals say the cluster of suicides is an epidemic.

"I think it's mostly underlying depression not just copying someone's behavior, but of course having other examples gives them an idea of how easy it is to accomplish," said Marina Bystritsky, a clinical psychologist who teaches part-time at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Even before the 16-year-old boy took his life Monday night, a community meeting had already been planned.

Various agencies say they must address the issue without sensationalizing it.

"Without adding drama and hype, we want to rather bring the stigma of depression out of the closet, out of the shadows and talk about it as a community," said Dan Ryan, Palo Alto Police Dept.

The /*American Foundation for Suicide Prevention*/ uses public service announcements to reach out to teens.

Bystritsky says fellow students can often identify peers having trouble before a parent or teacher can.

"They sometimes can't put a finger on exactly what is off, but they often notice it more than adults," said Bystritsky.

Authorities are not sure whether any of the four teens who took their own lives were connected.

Suicide by train is not a new phenomenon in general, but this is the largest cluster of teen suicides Caltrain has seen in recent memory.

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