CDC Joins Investigation into Palo Alto Suicide Clusters

Responding to an official request of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will join an investigation into two suicide clusters among youth in recent years occurring in Palo Alto, California.

CDC Joins Investigation into Palo Alto Suicide Clusters

The CDC’s Epi-Aid team arrived in Santa Clara County on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2016 to perform an epidemiological study into what are termed suicide clusters – multiple suicides within a short time span – with the second cluster termed an “echo cluster” occurring a few years later. The first rash of suicides in Palo Alto occurred between 2009 to 2010 when six students or recent graduates committed suicide with a second cluster of such suicides occurring in 2014 to 2015. In total, 20 youths or young adults died as a result of suicide between 2009 to 2015.

The CDC team expects to spend two weeks in the area, gathering and analyzing data from sources such as the Santa Clara County coroner’s office, local hospitals and schools. During the two-week investigatory period, the CDC has plans to facilitate eight community focus groups to discuss suicide prevention strategies. The CDC team will work to identify specific risk factors for suicide in the area and will be working with suicide prevention groups and Stanford University, located in affluent Palo Alto.

A preliminary report of the CDC investigation is expected within a few weeks of the investigation’s completion, with a full report expected within a few months.

School District, City and County Have Been Working Together to Reduce Youth Suicides

The Palo Alto school district, community and mental health providers, Stanford University and parents and teens in the area have been working side by side for a number of years seeking to stem the tide of suicides there.

The City of Palo Alto and the Palo Alto Unified School District joined Santa Clara County health officials in the request for the CDC’s assistance in identifying issues that may be underlying the highest suicide rate the area has seen in a decade. The school district was encouraged by a similar investigation the CDC conducted in Fairfax, Virginia on youth suicide, budgeting $250,000 for mental health services and additional school counselors, two of the risk factors identified in Fairfax as possible risk factors there.


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