A Place of Sorrow

Another suicide reported at Gunn High

On Monday, October 19, a tragedy unfolded near Henry M. Gunn High School. A 16-year-old boy, a sophomore at Gunn High, stepped onto the tracks of a Caltrain crossing in an apparent suicide attempt and was hit by the train, dying almost immediately. It is a heartbreaking story in any context, but what makes it all the more troubling is that he is just one of four Gunn High students that have committed suicide on these tracks in the last four months.

In fact, Gunn High has had a relatively high amount of students who have either committed or attempted suicide, causing some to worry about what may be causing the rising numbers. Some speculate it is the pressured-filled environment of the school that is driving students to resort to such drastic action. Ranked 74th nationwide by U.S. News & World Report in 2008 and constantly placed in the top .01 percent of the nation’s high schools, Gunn High is known to be academically superior to many schools, particularly in the education of engineering and computer science, and students are expected to perform at extremely high levels.

Whatever the reasons, there has been more and more reports of suicides at Gunn High, and police nearby said they have already prevented around eight to ten other attempted suicides in the area. The most recent suicide was committed by a 13-year-old incoming freshman of Gunn High on August 22, and many other suicides have been reported earlier this year, including that of Jean-Paul Blanchard in May and Sonya Raymakers just a month after.

Almost all of these suicides took place at the very same place – the tracks of the Caltrain. In fact, authorities say that at least half of the deaths that occurred on the tracks in the last six years were suicides, many of which were young teenagers attending Gunn High. Action has been taken to prevent these deaths, and Caltrain has spent over 17 million dollars to build gates around the tracks as well as signs and fencing. There is also talk of increasing transit police near the Caltrain.

Gunn High is also responding to these deaths. According to Gunn High students, counselors have been talking to students and encouraging them to talk about their problems that might lead to depression – or worse, suicide. By increasing awareness of the alternatives of dealing with depression and stress, the administration of Gunn High hopes to prevent future suicides.

Can this tragic pattern be stopped? Only time will tell, and for now, all we can do is hope that the efforts being made will be enough to stop this once and for all.