Bay City News reported Tuesday:
- This morning, Palo Alto police Agent Dan Ryan declined to say whether the teen killed Monday was a student at Gunn, explaining that publicizing details in such cases can contribute to "copycat-ism and the cluster effect."
- Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said transit police are still investigating whether Monday's death was a suicide.
- "We owe it to the victim as well as to the community to do a complete and thorough investigation before we release any information," she said.
- Palo Alto police Sgt. Dan Ryan would say only that the victim was a male struck by a train about 50 yards south of the West Meadow Drive crossing in Palo Alto.
- "We're trying to avoid creating a greater cluster of these," Ryan said. "The research we're being told is that the more we talk about it and romanticize it, the easier it is that mentally ill or depressed people will make that leap. We're taking a stand and not releasing more information."
- Kathleen Ruegsegger, a school district spokeswoman, also said there would be "no statement from the district or the school."
These are a few of the points the CDC makes in its advice to government officials or others coordinating a response to a suicide cluster:
- • (B) Appoint a single media spokesperson from each of the relevant community sectors — public health, education, mental health, local government, and the like.
- • (C) These spokespersons should provide frequent, timely access to the media and present a complete and honest picture of the pertinent events. When appropriate, regularly scheduled press conferences should be held.
- • (C. 1.) Avoid "whitewashing" — that is, saying that everything is under control or giving other assurances that may later prove unwarranted. This practice would undermine the credibility of the community spokespersons.
The CDC guidelines also suggest that officials convince community members not to comment to the press and instead refer comments to the appointed spokespersons. The public, of course, has a constitutional right to talk to a reporter at any time.
For additional information on the coverage of suicides, here are two links: