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Experts Looking Into Palo Alto's Alarming Suicide Rate

Update Date: Feb 18, 2016 09:09 AM EST

A surprising and disturbing surge of suicide cases among teenagers in Palo Alto, California has recently prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to launch an investigation into the unusually high suicide clusters in the affluent Californian town.

CDC defines suicide cluster as "a group of suicides or suicide attempts, or both, that occur closer together in time and space than would normally be expected in a given community" as quoted in report by Yahoo News.

CDC mental experts will begin a "contagion risk" investigation this week similar to how health experts investigate a virus outbreak that occurs widespread in a certain locality.

Palo Alto experienced its first well-documented suicide cluster between 2009 and 2010 when six students of elite Henry M. Gunn High School took their own lives.

Then from October 2014 to March 2015, Palo Alto was once again shocked when four more teens reportedly committed suicide creating a huge psycho-social impact on the community. Three were identified as either students at Gunn or recent graduates. The other suicide victim was a student a nearby high school. The suicide clusters put Palo Alto's suicide rate at four or five times higher than US average.

What causes teens to commit suicide at such an alarming rate?

As teenagers enter adolescence and early adult stage, their relationships with a great variety of people eventually change and make them vulnerable to impulsive acts than adults.

"Their relationships with other teens really start to play much more of a role than their relationships with their parents, and so they influence each other more. Between both the social influences and biological influences, it makes them much more vulnerable to being influenced by somebody else's suicide," explained psychiatry professor Madelyn Gould, of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health as quoted by ABC News.

In order to bring suicide cluster rates down, CDC insists media organizations to follow reporting guidelines to avoid sensationalizing media coverage of suicide cases that could potentially seep through teenagers' vulnerable subconscious minds as mentioned in an article by Refinery29.

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