Caltrain teen suicides on the rise

June 5, 2009 7:07:54 PM PDT
Teachers, students and parents at Palo Alto's Gunn High School are trying to come to grips with a number of recent suicides at a train crossing. Students at this top rated school have taken it upon themselves to prevent more.

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Sheriff's deputies and police stood watch Friday over the East Meadow Drive Crossing where last night, another teenager from Gunn High School tried to take his life.

Police say his mother and a passing motorist restrained him.

Just last month, Jean-Paul Blanchard died at this same crossing. On Tuesday, Sonya Raymakers was killed by another train here. They were both 17 and students at Gunn High School, but police say they did not know each other.

McKay Daines, a senior, knew Sonya.

"I know it sounds like a cliché, but she was happy all the time," said Daines.

At the crossing, students are remembering the two. Among the many cards is a note that says: "If you're considering taking your life, come talk to me first." It's signed -- Nicole.

The note says she lives in a house next to the tracks. The Good Samaritan happens to be a student at Gunn.

"All it takes is one person whom they may not know who could be that one person who matters," said Gunn High School junior Nicole Hemenway.

Hemenway doesn't know why they took their own lives but says there's a lot of pressure here to excel. Gunn is one of the top schools in the country.

"I think that even the people who are on top don't feel that they're doing enough," said Hemenway.

Margaret Murchan supervises the on campus counseling services.

"There is that added stress but it's added to what was already there. What was already there was a lot pain and anguish," said Murchan.

There will be a police presence at this crossing at least until graduation. Daines is trying to recruit other students through Facebook to stand guard when deputies and police leave.

"At least about 20 students have contacted me individually and expressed their desire to help," said Daines.

Sonja Raymakers was to go to New York University this fall. Tragically, she was laid to rest at a cemetery across from her school.

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