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Suicide is tragedy enough for one family, but what if it becomes the latest trend amongst teenagers? Unfortunately, this became a reality at Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California where four students have committed suicide in the last six months. In fact, all four of the students committed suicide in the same way: by standing in front of an oncoming train.

According to psychology experts, “suicide clusters”, the name given to groups of suicides, account for 3-5% of all suicide deaths each year. However, they are almost entirely exclusive to teenagers and young adults. The reason suicide clusters occur, experts argue, is that adolescence is a time of great transition for most teenagers. Furthermore, modern teenagers live in a time period where it is possible to obtain instant information on their peers’ activities from networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Therefore, it is easy to learn of the most recent suicide tragedies in any given area. Unfortunately, when there is so much publicity through networking sites, as well as the media, it is common to see copycat behavior from already vulnerable teenagers.

Nevertheless, networking sites can also be useful in suicide prevention. For example, in the wake of the most recent suicide tragedies in Palo Alto, students from Gunn High School started a blog called HMGGMH or Henry M. Gunn Gives Me Hope. The students also started a peer counseling group called ROCK (Reach Out. Care. Know) that encourages discussion and support amongst students. Experts state that groups of this type can help “demystify” teen suicide and take away from the sensationalizing of suicide as a viable solution to problems.

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