News

Suicides: more common than murder

10th leading cause of death for adults, 3rd for young adults

Seventeen-year-old Tricia Martin may be Pleasanton's latest casualty in an ongoing trend that claims nearly 34,000 people every year in the United States.

Martin, a senior at Village High School, was one of two people found dead in a Newark motel on Sept. 14, in what police describe as a double suicide or murder-suicide. She was with her boyfriend, a young man from Livermore.

At Martin's service Sept. 22, five of her friends said a few words, and none of them made it through without crying. All had to stop at least momentarily.

"You could just feel how much they were hurting," said a friend of the family. "You wanted to do something, anything, to help them, and there's just nothing you can do."

Martin's death is not an isolated case. Friends and family members were shocked earlier this year when Roy Dronkers, a well-known, well-respected Realtor took his own life, although Dronkers had battled for years with depression.

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While Dronkers might have felt alone -- those who survive a suicide attempt often say they do -- he was not. One in 10 Americans suffer from depression, one of the leading causes of suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the country. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health claims suicides now claim more people than car crashes.

In Pleasanton, 19 people killed themselves between January 2010 and September of this year -- four in 2010, seven in 2011, and at least eight so far this year. Alameda County shows 380 people died by their own hand during that time: 158 in 2010, 139 in 2011, and 83 through August, although the coroner's office notes that some deaths are still under investigation.

Danville has recorded six deaths over the same time: two in 2010, three in 2011, and one so far this year, while San Ramon shows two suicides in 2010, five in 2011 and none so far this year. In Contra Costa County there have been 301 suicides during the same period, with 118 in 2010, 116 in 2011, and 76 so far this year.

Local suicides seem to be taking place more in public. In recent months, one person hanged himself at a public parking lot in Danville, and a Pleasanton man hanged himself at Pleasanton Ridge. Two people leapt to their death in separate incidents at the two local BART stations. A Danville woman drove her car into a ravine on Mount Diablo, and, in a particularly tragic incident, Pleasanton resident Amy Burton Freeman fatally shot herself after killing her 13-year-old daughter, Ainslee.

Beyond that, a Fremont man leaped onto Interstate 580 late last year. A San Ramon man shot himself in the head during a traffic stop last November. A 2007 Amador Valley graduate shot himself after killing his ex-girlfriend, a 2006 Amador Valley grad, in a San Diego murder-suicide in December 2011. One person, whose sex was not released, committed suicide in April 2011 in the creek bed that runs through downtown.

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Earlier this month, an inmate at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin committed suicide on by hanging himself in his cell, and late last year, a man in custody after running off with a local high school girl tried to kill himself by jumping off the top tier of the jail, leaving him partially paralyzed.

At least four other teens have died from suicide in recent years.

An Amador Valley High freshman jumped in front of a train in April 2010. A 13-year-old attending Opportunity Middle School shot himself in April 2011. A San Ramon Valley High School sophomore jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in May 2011. A middle school girl from Diablo Vista Middle School killed herself in 2008, apparently despondent over poor math scores.

The CDC reports suicide is the third-leading cause of death of people 15 to 24 and the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 14.

Those are just the ones that made the news. The Pleasanton Weekly, as is the case with most publications, does not cover suicides unless they occur in public places, the victims are public figures, or when the loss affects a great number of people, such as when a teen dies and classmates, teachers, teammates and others are mourning.

"By reporting these stories we are able to show how prevalent suicide is. Perhaps making community members aware will bring about discussion, and perhaps discussion will bring about help for people who are struggling with the idea, have a loved one struggling with the idea, or have lost someone to suicide," said Gina Allen, publisher of the Pleasanton Weekly. "We can't pretend suicide is not an issue."

Suicide has become such a big issue nationwide that the Obama administration this month, National Suicide Prevention Month, announced a major initiative to help prevent suicides, especially among veterans, who commit suicide at a higher rate than civilians. A New York Times article in June said veteran suicides had risen 18% between 2011 and 2012. The Obama plan will boost staff at the national crisis hotline (800-273-855) for both civilians and members of the military and provide $55.6 million for state and local programs.

Local police organizations, including the Pleasanton Police Department, are also receiving crisis intervention training to teach officers how to better interact with people threatening suicide or who are mentally ill. Dronker's death inspired his brother and sister-in-law, Ron and Brenda Dronkers, to create the "I am Here" foundation, "to provide a safe, no judgmental website that will provide online resources" and to eventually have a 24-hour hotline and online chat room "for those who need a friendly, confidential ear."

For assistance, contact:

* A community mental health agency;

* A private therapist or counselor;

* A school counselor or psychologist;

* A family physician;

* Suicide prevention:

Alameda County 24 hour hotline: (800) 309-2131

National Hotline: (800) 784-2433, (800) SUICIDE

Publisher's note

Sometimes our stories hit too close to home.

The package of stories written by Glenn Wohltmann on suicide in this week's edition was slated to run in the issue of Sept. 14. However, when our friend and Pleasanton Weekly colleague Kathy Martin reported her daughter Tricia missing, we decided to hold the stories until Tricia was safely back home.

We lost Tricia on Sept. 14 to what is being investigated as a murder-suicide or double suicide.

It hurts to run these stories. It hurts more to watch Kathy and Tricia's friends grieving over their loss.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. We pray running these stories will cause anyone contemplating this act to reconsider and spare his or her loved ones from the excruciating pain felt by those left behind. - G.M. Channell-Allen

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Suicides: more common than murder

10th leading cause of death for adults, 3rd for young adults

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Sun, Sep 30, 2012, 7:28 am
Updated: Sat, Oct 6, 2012, 7:06 am

Seventeen-year-old Tricia Martin may be Pleasanton's latest casualty in an ongoing trend that claims nearly 34,000 people every year in the United States.

Martin, a senior at Village High School, was one of two people found dead in a Newark motel on Sept. 14, in what police describe as a double suicide or murder-suicide. She was with her boyfriend, a young man from Livermore.

At Martin's service Sept. 22, five of her friends said a few words, and none of them made it through without crying. All had to stop at least momentarily.

"You could just feel how much they were hurting," said a friend of the family. "You wanted to do something, anything, to help them, and there's just nothing you can do."

Martin's death is not an isolated case. Friends and family members were shocked earlier this year when Roy Dronkers, a well-known, well-respected Realtor took his own life, although Dronkers had battled for years with depression.

While Dronkers might have felt alone -- those who survive a suicide attempt often say they do -- he was not. One in 10 Americans suffer from depression, one of the leading causes of suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the country. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health claims suicides now claim more people than car crashes.

In Pleasanton, 19 people killed themselves between January 2010 and September of this year -- four in 2010, seven in 2011, and at least eight so far this year. Alameda County shows 380 people died by their own hand during that time: 158 in 2010, 139 in 2011, and 83 through August, although the coroner's office notes that some deaths are still under investigation.

Danville has recorded six deaths over the same time: two in 2010, three in 2011, and one so far this year, while San Ramon shows two suicides in 2010, five in 2011 and none so far this year. In Contra Costa County there have been 301 suicides during the same period, with 118 in 2010, 116 in 2011, and 76 so far this year.

Local suicides seem to be taking place more in public. In recent months, one person hanged himself at a public parking lot in Danville, and a Pleasanton man hanged himself at Pleasanton Ridge. Two people leapt to their death in separate incidents at the two local BART stations. A Danville woman drove her car into a ravine on Mount Diablo, and, in a particularly tragic incident, Pleasanton resident Amy Burton Freeman fatally shot herself after killing her 13-year-old daughter, Ainslee.

Beyond that, a Fremont man leaped onto Interstate 580 late last year. A San Ramon man shot himself in the head during a traffic stop last November. A 2007 Amador Valley graduate shot himself after killing his ex-girlfriend, a 2006 Amador Valley grad, in a San Diego murder-suicide in December 2011. One person, whose sex was not released, committed suicide in April 2011 in the creek bed that runs through downtown.

Earlier this month, an inmate at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin committed suicide on by hanging himself in his cell, and late last year, a man in custody after running off with a local high school girl tried to kill himself by jumping off the top tier of the jail, leaving him partially paralyzed.

At least four other teens have died from suicide in recent years.

An Amador Valley High freshman jumped in front of a train in April 2010. A 13-year-old attending Opportunity Middle School shot himself in April 2011. A San Ramon Valley High School sophomore jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in May 2011. A middle school girl from Diablo Vista Middle School killed herself in 2008, apparently despondent over poor math scores.

The CDC reports suicide is the third-leading cause of death of people 15 to 24 and the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 14.

Those are just the ones that made the news. The Pleasanton Weekly, as is the case with most publications, does not cover suicides unless they occur in public places, the victims are public figures, or when the loss affects a great number of people, such as when a teen dies and classmates, teachers, teammates and others are mourning.

"By reporting these stories we are able to show how prevalent suicide is. Perhaps making community members aware will bring about discussion, and perhaps discussion will bring about help for people who are struggling with the idea, have a loved one struggling with the idea, or have lost someone to suicide," said Gina Allen, publisher of the Pleasanton Weekly. "We can't pretend suicide is not an issue."

Suicide has become such a big issue nationwide that the Obama administration this month, National Suicide Prevention Month, announced a major initiative to help prevent suicides, especially among veterans, who commit suicide at a higher rate than civilians. A New York Times article in June said veteran suicides had risen 18% between 2011 and 2012. The Obama plan will boost staff at the national crisis hotline (800-273-855) for both civilians and members of the military and provide $55.6 million for state and local programs.

Local police organizations, including the Pleasanton Police Department, are also receiving crisis intervention training to teach officers how to better interact with people threatening suicide or who are mentally ill. Dronker's death inspired his brother and sister-in-law, Ron and Brenda Dronkers, to create the "I am Here" foundation, "to provide a safe, no judgmental website that will provide online resources" and to eventually have a 24-hour hotline and online chat room "for those who need a friendly, confidential ear."

For assistance, contact:

* A community mental health agency;

* A private therapist or counselor;

* A school counselor or psychologist;

* A family physician;

* Suicide prevention:

Alameda County 24 hour hotline: (800) 309-2131

National Hotline: (800) 784-2433, (800) SUICIDE

Publisher's note

Sometimes our stories hit too close to home.

The package of stories written by Glenn Wohltmann on suicide in this week's edition was slated to run in the issue of Sept. 14. However, when our friend and Pleasanton Weekly colleague Kathy Martin reported her daughter Tricia missing, we decided to hold the stories until Tricia was safely back home.

We lost Tricia on Sept. 14 to what is being investigated as a murder-suicide or double suicide.

It hurts to run these stories. It hurts more to watch Kathy and Tricia's friends grieving over their loss.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. We pray running these stories will cause anyone contemplating this act to reconsider and spare his or her loved ones from the excruciating pain felt by those left behind. - G.M. Channell-Allen

Comments

Mike
Highland Oaks
on Sep 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm
Mike, Highland Oaks
on Sep 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Stay alert and sensitive to the needs of those around you.

Mike


Pete
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2012 at 5:57 pm
Pete , Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2012 at 5:57 pm

"Perhaps making community members aware will bring about discussion, and perhaps discussion will bring about help for people who are struggling with the idea" Perhaps...is a good word. Judgement is easier...for most. Community leadership, police and friends...often times...have less intuititiveness. Thanks for the piece...


Jean
Rosewood
on Sep 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm
Jean, Rosewood
on Sep 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Given that some school administrators have cancelled recesses for small children at some schools and seem to be barring parents from one elementary school (Henry Mohr ES), it appears that the District is oblivious to the socio-emotional needs of children.

Some of the recent suicides involved special needs children with disabilities or learning disabilities. This would indicate that the school system marginalizes these children (one had dyslexia) to such a degree that this is a huge problem.

Jay Thorwaldson, former editor of the Palo Alto Weekly, has many articles on the subject such as this one - Web Link When there were suicides in Palo Alto, there was leadership in the community and the school district to get to the root of the problem.

In comparison in Pleasanton, the PUSD website has in black bold type 'Email the Tip Line' on the upper right side of their home page here Web Link , but there is no email address or link to any email address. If they have an 'email the Tip Line' instruction, why is there no email address listed?


Mary
Livermore
on Oct 1, 2012 at 8:29 am
Mary, Livermore
on Oct 1, 2012 at 8:29 am

National Day of Prayer for Mental Wellness

Join us for a Prayer and Candle Lighting Service
to support the journey of healing, recovery, and
understanding of Mental Illness
for our community, our loved ones, and ourselves.

A message of hope, and helpful resources will also be available.

This coming Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 7:00 pm
Sunset Community Church
2200 Arroyo Road, Livermore, Ca 94550
(right next to the Tennis Club at ConCannon and Arroyo)


Raise awareness!
Castlewood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 9:05 am
Raise awareness!, Castlewood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 9:05 am

I guess the reason behind not reporting suicides is because it gives people the idea of suicide??? I don't know. But PW is not the only paper with this policy. My thought is that it should be reported - not just the suicide aspect but the people they left behind. Lets use suicide the other way and raise awareness... How to spot the signs, how taking your own life affects your loved ones... Suicide is not cancer. We can actually stop this! But people are too afraid or whatever it is. We need to stop hiding from it and face it. If we have a chance of even saving 1 life we should do it!


ca94566
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 9:11 am
ca94566, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 9:11 am

This story is so distressing, I feel the pain of a child dying at a young age, not by suicide, but the pain is probably the same.
Where are/What are the options for these troubled young people? Teach teachers, parents to profile changes in behaviors’?

This was posted on FB yesterday and then I see PW’s story about suicide this morning. I’ve sent it to all the young people I know…. very sad:

Wanna kill yourself? Imagine this.
You come home from school one day. You've had yet another horrible day. You’re just ready to give up. So you go to your room, close the door, and take out that suicide note you've written and rewritten over and over and over You take out those razor blades, and cut for the very last time. You grab that bottle of pills and take them all. Laying down, holding the letter to your chest, you close your eyes for the very last time. A few hours later, your little brother knocks on your door to come tell you dinners ready. You don’t answer, so he walks in. All he sees is you lying on your bed, so he thinks you’re asleep. He tells your mom this. Your mom goes to your room to wake you up. She notices something is odd. She grabs the paper in your hand and reads it. Sobbing, she tries to wake you up. She’s screaming your name. Your brother, so confused, runs to go tell Dad that “Mommy is crying and sissy won’t wake up.” Your dad runs to your room. He looks at your mom, crying, holding the letter to her chest, and sitting next to your lifeless body. It hits him, what’s going on, and he screams. He screams and throws something at the wall. And then, falling to his knees, he starts to cry. Your mom crawls over to him, and they sit there, holding each other, crying. The next day at school, there’s an announcement. The principal tells everyone about your suicide. It takes a few seconds for it to sink in, and once it does, everyone goes silent. Everyone blames himself or herself. Your teachers think they were too hard on you. Those mean popular girls, they think of all the things they've said to you. That boy that used to tease you and call you names, he can’t help but hate himself for never telling you how beautiful you really are. Your ex boyfriend, the one that you told everything to, that broke up with you.. He can’t handle it. He breaks down and starts crying, and runs out of the school. Your friends? They’re sobbing too, wondering how they could never see that anything was wrong, wishing they could have helped you before it was too late. And your best friend? She’s in shock. She can’t believe it. She knew what you were going through, but she never thought it would get that bad… Bad enough for you to end it. She can’t cry, she can’t feel anything. She stands up, walks out of the classroom, and just sinks to the floor. Shaking, screaming, but no tears coming out. It’s a few days later, at your funeral. The whole town came. Everyone knew you, that girl with the bright smile and bubbly personality. The one that was always there for them, the shoulder to cry on. Lots of people talk about all the good memories they had with you, there were a lot. Everyone’s crying, your little brother still doesn't know you killed yourself, he’s too young. Your parents just said you died. It hurts him, a lot. You were his big sister, you were supposed to always be there for him. Your best friend, she stays strong through the entire service, but as soon as they start lowering your casket into the ground, she just loses it. She cries and cries and doesn't stop for days. It’s two years later. The whole school talks to a counselor/therapist at least once a week. Your teachers all quit their job. Those mean girls have eating disorders now. That boy that used to tease you cuts himself. Your ex boyfriend doesn't know how to love anymore and just sleeps around with girls. Your friends all go into depression. Your best friend? She tried to kill herself. She didn't succeed like you did, but she tried…your brother? He finally found out the truth about your death. He self harms, he cries at night, he does exactly what you did for years leading up to your suicide. Your parents? Their marriage fell apart. Your dad became a workaholic to distract himself from your death. Your mom got diagnosed with depression and just lays in bed all day. People care. You may not think so, but they do. Your choices don’t just effect you. They effect everyone. Don’t end your life, you have so much to live for. Things can’t get better if you give up. I’m here for absolutely anyone that needs to talk, no matter who you are. Even if we've NEVER talked before, I’m here for you. Click SHARE or Copy and paste this as your status to show people there are people out there that care!♥


Anonymous
Foothill High School
on Oct 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm
Anonymous, Foothill High School
on Oct 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm

I am aware of a serious bullying situation that the school didn't handle in accordance with the district's policy. There was even a staff member present during one of the instances during school hours on school grounds and the bullies told the staff mrmber they didn't need to send them to the office or report the them to the office as required. The district did NOTHING to help even though there's been a very hefty toll on the victim. A complaint was just filed with the state as a result, but other parents should not assume their child will be protected or that PUSA follows their own bullying policies. I guess they don't understand or just don't care that being bullied can be fatal.

My own children have had to deal with the loss of more friends to suicide, including with the loss of Tricia, than I have in almost fifty years of life. I fear that they are all getting used to it and I don't see PUSD doing much to help these kids in need of extra support. Kids are being horribly abused and the school and district don't care. The depression and helplessness that these kids feel are more than a you g person can be expected on their own.

Shame on PUSD.


d
Downtown
on Oct 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm
d, Downtown
on Oct 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm

As I was reading this , I was hoping a suicidede prevention hotline number would be at the end of the article...this is an oversite?


Resident
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 2:21 pm
Resident, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 2:21 pm

(Post deemed inappropriate by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff)


Jean
Rosewood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 2:34 pm
Jean, Rosewood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Resident, I agree with your assessment. They have attempted to combine a continuation school with an alternative school, but it is a continuation school.

There was supposed to be a small alternative high school on the 20 acres that is off of Busch Road. It was supposed to be for students who thrived in smaller environments rather than massive impersonal mega-high schools. PUSD had an option to buy the property from Ponderosa and in public said they were going to build the small high school.

They had the money to buy the property several years ago, then secretly passed on the option in a Closed session of the school board. They never announced this to the public in the community, and a senior retirement facility was recently built on the land.

It is common for older students who are almost adults to pursue much younger girls at Village. Village is a problem because most of the kids get out around noon. Parents are not home in the afternoon so the kids have little to no supervision.


Livermore Mom
Livermore
on Oct 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm
Livermore Mom, Livermore
on Oct 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Suicide. What a tragic, hopeless, painful way to leave this world. To be in such despair and isolation that one decides their life isn't worth fighting for, or that feels so empty and alone that they believe their life serves no purpose, or that their pain is so overwhelmingly intense that death is the only way out of the agony of life. Such sorrow and grief.

I am the mother of a child who, since he was five, has talked off and on over the years about wanting to die because life is just too hard. He's now 15 and still struggles with thoughts of suicide. He has Bipolar Disorder and suicidal ideation is a symptom of the disease. He fights for himself as best he can, then I fight for him even harder. Every day I tell him how much he is loved and how important he is in this world. And it helps for a while. Will it save him? I can only pray that it will at least let him know that he can come to me when life gets too hard again and the thoughts of suicide creep their way back into his head. I can only pray that it's enough.

But I can't stop there. I have to do more. I started a support group through NAMI Tri-Valley (the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness) for the parents of children and adolescents suffering from bipolar and other mood disorders. You see, fear of suicide for our kids hangs heavily over our heads like a dark, stormy cloud. It's exhausting to be forever watchful, but watchful is what we must be. And we cry tears of anguish for the families that have lost a loved one to suicide.

Please be watchful. Reach out to others who understand. NAMI Tri-Valley is a wonderful organization that provides resources, support and public education about mental illness of which suicide is a huge component. Visit their website at www.nami-trivalley.org for more information. Another valuable resource is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and their website is www.afsp.org.

May our children always be filled with peace and the courage to live.


Jean
Rosewood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:34 pm
Jean, Rosewood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Livermore Mom, you sound like a very caring parent. Good luck to your 15 year old son and thank you for passing on the information about NAMI Tri-Valley. Here is the URL for NAMI - Web Link


MMP
Kottinger Ranch
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm
MMP, Kottinger Ranch
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm

@livermore mom:

What an amazing mom you are. Your story brought tears to my eyes as I suffer from the same illness your son does, but I am almost 40. I can't imagine someone do young battling this crippling illness and I thank God he has someone like you that has his back. If only all victims of this awful disease had someone like you in their lives, I think the suicide rate would decline.

I pray for your son and I pray for your continued courage, strength and leadership. My family turned their back on me for the most part, but I have wonderfully supportive friends and attend a support group. People with this illness need people like you in our lives to remind us of our value when the lows bring so much darkness that anyone would wonder why they would want to live like this when dying seems so much easier. Sometimes we need someone that can remind us that this too shall pass when we are so wrapped up in the darkness that it's impossible to see the light.

I will continue to pray for your family. You keep doing what you're doing and just know you are making a huge difference in your son's life. You are truly an angel.


Kelly M
Ruby Hill
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:52 pm
Kelly M, Ruby Hill
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:52 pm

I too have had issues with Pleasanton schools and bullying. The issue was serious enough that my child expressed a desire to die and the school did not handle it to my satisfaction. The bottom line is that research shows that depressed individuals that have recently lost someone in their life to suicide are at a much greater risk of death by suicide themselves. The last three child suicides were of well liked kids, village or not, that had many friends, but were dealing with very adult subjects in their life that might have added to a depressed state.

We need to be doing more, especially for the children involved. My concern was not taken seriously and the bullies didn't even get a slap on the wrist so to speak. We have much work to do in this area and so far I see a bunch of heads buried in the sand or some belief that by ignoring the bullying or the student suicides that it will all disappear into thin air. Very tragic.


Jean
Rosewood
on Oct 2, 2012 at 2:40 am
Jean, Rosewood
on Oct 2, 2012 at 2:40 am

Kelly, I believe that the schools do not handle many of these issues to anyone's satisfaction. We have had far more recent suicides than other school districts, even school districts with similar demographics. Bunch of heads buried in the sand is indeed correct.


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