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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Newton Take Note: With Pressure to Succeed, High School Suicides Rise

From the WBUR 90.9 FM Program
"On Point" with Tom Ashbrook

By Guest Host Jane Clayson
May 4, 2015 

After clusters of high school suicides in California, Virginia and Massachusetts, we look at the pressure parents put on teenagers to succeed. 

In this March 26, 2015 photo, Yvonne DeCory, a suicide-prevention
outreach worker, stands in her small office in the basement of the
Post Office in Pine Ridge, S.D. Nearly 1,000 suicide attempts were
recorded on the reservation between 2004 and 2013.
DeCory said few weeks go by without a suicide. (AP)

Three Palo Alto, California teenagers took their own lives this winter. And it’s happened there before. In Newton, Massachusetts, three teens committed suicide last year. And another three in Fairfax County, Virginia. Is there too much competition in these hyper-competitive communities?

Psychologists tell us that suicide clusters are rare. And caution against singling out any one factor. But with one in four kids now with a clinical diagnosis of depression or anxiety — something’s going wrong.

This Hour, On Point:
Teenagers and the Achievement Toll


Madeline Levine, psychologist. Co-founder of the Stanford University Graduate School of Education’s Challenge Success Program. Author of The Price of Privilege and Teach Your Children Well.”

Laurence Steinberg, professor of psychology at Temple University. Author of Age of Opportunity.” (@ldsteinberg)

Regina Garcia Cano, South Dakota-based reporter for the Associated Press. (@reginagarciakno)

From the Reading List

New York Times: Push, Don’t Crush, the Students — “Suicide clusters are relatively rare, accounting for about 5 percent of teenage suicides. Startlingly, this year’s is the second contagion to visit this city. Five students or recent graduates of the district’s other high school, Gunn High School, killed themselves beginning in 2009.”

Palo Alto Weekly: Keep Calm and Parent On — “There is no single cause of suicide — the act can arise from any combination of multiple factors — biological, environmental, psychological and situational. As a community, we agree that whatever can be done to mitigate these factors must be done; where we disagree, however, is where one might expect: What does “whatever can be done” entail?

Our public debate continues — in community meetings, in online forums, in newspaper letters, in school board and city hall meetings. But for me, on line at Starbucks, in the aisles of Safeway, at school campus pick-up or drop-off, this public debate echoes much more private and personal implorations.

My fellow parents ask me in whispers: What can we do right now to decrease the risk of suicide in our children?”

TIME: American Teens Are Stressed and Bored. It’s Time to Talk About Feelings — “A growing body of research highlights the importance of how kids feel and how they manage those feelings, or not. Emotions drive attention, learning, memory, and decision-making. They affect relationships and psychological well-being.

Learning to handle emotions well is especially important in adolescence, a time when neural networks are being sculpted that will influence behavior patterns for life.”

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