Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Teenagers in Palo Alto, and Suicide

Attempts to climb hierarchies usually do not bring the glory they seem to offer. The pressure can be unhealthy and even deadly. Trying to stay at the top is not what it appears.

In Palo Alto, Californita, a man in a blaring orange vest, the kind that road crews and public-safety workers wear, patrols the railroad tracks. He wasn’t carrying any equipment. Hours later at the same crossing, an orange-vested woman stood.

They are on the lookout for Palo Alto teenage suicide attempts. Between May 2009 and January 2010, five Palo Alto teenagers stepped in front of trains ending their lives. And since October of last year, another three Palo Alto teenagers have killed themselves that way, prompting longer hours by more sentries along the tracks.

These are to some extent problems of affluence and privilege, and underscore an economic trepidation that is sadly widespread and is seemingly intensified by the gaping divide between the haves and have-nots in the United States.

Adam Strassberg, a psychiatrist and the father of two Palo Alto teenagers, wrote that while many Palo Alto parents are “wealthy and secure beyond imagining,” they’re consumed by fear of losing that perch or failing to bequeath it to their kids. “Maintaining and advancing insidiously high educational standards in our children is a way to soothe this anxiety,” he said.