Category Archives: Suicide Prevention

Navigating the Tides of Adolescence

On May 11th, StarVista partnered with Junipero Serra High School to host a panel on Navigating the Tides of Adolescence. This event, the fourth of its kind, was directed towards what parents can do to support their teens through the stresses and pressures of high school and young adulthood.

The panel included:

  • Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of the highly acclaimed book, “How to Raise an Adult“ and former Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising at Stanford University
  • Kathleen Blanchard, Gunn High School parent
  • Steven Sust, Stanford University School of Medicine and San Mateo County Psychiatrist
  • Narges Zohoury Dillon, M.A., LMFT, Program Director for StarVista’s Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Center, and Child and Adolescent Hotline and Prevention Program.
  • Rachel Myrow, KQED Correspondent (Moderator)

Each panelist brought unique expertise to the table. Julie and Kathleen in particular spoke from the heart as parents whose children attended/are attending high performing, high pressure schools in the area. Julie spoke poignantly about how her son’s spirit and energy were sapped from the five-hour homework marathons he endured nightly as a 15-year-old. Kathleen shared that her son JP, a bright and well-liked boy, died by suicide at the Caltrain tracks in Palo Alto in 2009. As Julie and Kathleen shared their parenting mistakes and breakthroughs, the audience of fellow parents laughed and cried along, relating so well to the many challenges of raising a teenager.

As a mother myself, and as a mentor to a teenage girl, I wanted to know what I could do to better support youth in my life.  Here is what I took away from the discussion:

  • See teenagers as whole people. So often we get into the habit of only talking to teens about school. High schoolers are inundated, from parents and strangers alike, with questions about their grades, their SAT study plans, college applications, what major they’ll choose, etc. It sends the message that their only worth is their academic performance. Instead, we should give them space to tell us about their interests and their passions. Steven talked about how all youth have values that motivate their decision-making and their goals. We need to take time to understand what those values are so we can better support them. One size does not fit all.
  • Get to know your kids’ friends (and their parents). Youth reach an age when their friends become their primary confidantes. We will learn more about our kids and become a trusted adult in their lives if we know who their friends are. We can do that by doing the above: seeing them and treating them as whole people. Also, kids may feel more comfortable talking to an adult other than their parent because that adult may be less judgmental or emotional. Build a community with other parents at your kids’ school so that we can all support each other.
  • Let them know you are willing to talk about the hard stuff. Narges gave the audience some helpful phrases to start the conversation, using this panel discussion as a launching point: “I attended a talk tonight on teen mental health and suicide. What do you think about those topics?” Leaving it open-ended gives us a chance to hear what the youth believes, what they’ve heard, and what they’ve experienced. She also suggested following up with “If something like this was happening to you or one of your friends, you can come to me. I’m here.” So often youth don’t reach out for fear that the caring adults in their lives can’t handle these conversations. Let them know explicitly that you CAN.
  • Model self-care and help-seeking behaviors. As parents we want to seem invincible to our children because we are their protectors. But children benefit from seeing the way we deal with setbacks and emotional challenges. Of course we need to maintain boundaries and not spill all the inner workings of our mind, but when we are going through a hard time we can show them that it’s okay to pause to take care of ourselves, and to reach out, whether to a loved one or a professional, to get support. We should acknowledge that pain is a normal part of life, that it can be worked through, and most importantly, that it is temporary.

At the beginning of the panel, I felt overwhelmed and pained thinking of all the challenges and pressures that teenagers are facing today. But by the end I felt better equipped to be a supportive adult. I also felt pride and a sense of community, knowing that so many other adults were invested in this topic, and willing to learn more about teen mental health. It will take all of us to break the stigma and support our youth the way they deserve to be supported.

Written by: Mai Le

My Journey As A Mental Health First Aider

I’m so excited to have my op-ed published in the San Mateo Daily Journal! Click the link below to read about a time where I used mental health first aid to help someone I didn’t know.

Showing Support for Survivors of Suicide

Tomorrow, November 19th, National Survivors of Suicide Day will be observed in the United States.  These days of mental health observance create a societal shift from mental illness and suicide stigma towards a platform of awareness about the incidence of mental illness and ways to aid its prevention.  However, as important as it is to focus attention on educating the masses on how to “Know the Signs,” or to understand the importance behind the tagline “Pain Isn’t Always Obvious,” it is also essential for us to show our support for the friends and family of people who have attempted or completed suicide.

Let’s spread the word about resources and events in the Bay Area that are ready to support you or someone you may know on National Survivors of Suicide Day. Remember, however you choose to participate on November 19th, the strength of love and comfort is found in communal unity.


Local Events:

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)– Greater San Francisco organized gathering all over Northern California to offer support and practice healing as a community. Additionally, the AFSP documentary, Life Journeys: Reclaiming Life after Loss, will be shown and additional programming is specific to each event and may include presentations by loss survivors and mental health professionals, as well as small group discussions that bring together people who have experienced similar losses.

All events will be held on November 19th, 2016.

Time: 8:30 – 11:30am

Eureka, CA:

St. Joseph Hospital, Conference Center 1
2700 Dolbeer Street
Eureka, California  95501

Time: 9am – 11:30am

Fremont, CA:

Ohlone College, Building 7
43600 Mission Boulevard
Fremont, California  94587

Time: 8:30am – 12:30pm

Livermore, CA:

Hope Hospice, Inc., Suite 100
6377 Clark Avenue
Dublin, California  94568

Time: 9am – 12pm

Palo Alto, CA:

650 Clark Way
Palo Alto, California  94304

Time: 10am – 2pm

Seaside, CA:

Veterans Administration Monterey Outpatient Clinic
3401 Engineer Lane
Seaside, California  93955

Time: 9am – 12pm

San Francisco, CA:

UCSF Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute
401 Parnassus Avenue
San Francisco, California  94143

Time: 11am – 3pm

Santa Rosa, CA:

Sonoma County YMCA

1111 College Ave

Santa Rosa, California  95124

Time: 9am – 12pm:

Walnut Creek, CA:

John Muir Health
Walnut Creek, California  94596


  • Helping others or yourself recover from losing a loved one as they grieve can be a difficult process – especially if unsure of what to say or do. Friends For Survival, Inc. offers an amazing way to remember the keys to help the healing process, called the Six T’s: Time, Tears, Talk, Touch, Trust, and Toil.
  • To find local grief support groups, please visit the American Association of Suicidiology to search for opportunities for self-help or supporting others. Additionally, if you know a child or teen who is grieving, please visit Children’s Grief Awareness Day, which is on November 17th, to learn how to their grief-recovery.


Article by Chenece Blackshear, Intern with the Office of Diversity and Equity

Over 60 People Trained in Suicide Prevention Among Older Adults

During September Suicide Prevention Month, over 60 individuals attended the September 13 Suicide Prevention Among Older Adults training provided by Behavioral Health and Recovery Services. The purpose of this free training was to educate anyone serving the older adult (60+) population on why older adults are at higher risk for suicide and on how to help prevent suicides among older adults. The audience included clinicians, mental health staff, community partners, and other individuals supporting older adults.


IMG_8249_edited.JPGThe training included an introductory presentation and a panel with a client/consumer, provider and community partner. Our speakers included Carmen Lee (Stamp Out Stigma), Dr. Barbara Yates-Weissman (San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services) and Dr. Patrick Arbore (Institute of Aging, Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention).

View the recorded training and handouts. The handouts are located at the bottom right corner of the page. Please note this link works only with Google Chrome browser, not Internet Explorer.

To learn more about suicide prevention efforts in San Mateo County and get involved, visit the Suicide Prevention website.


Happy 50th Anniversary to the StarVista Crisis Center!



Picture (Left to Right): Sylvia Tang, Narges Dillon, Stephanie Weisner,  Jei Africa

On September 22, the  StarVista Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Center celebrated 50 years of crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to San Mateo County. The event involved recognition of the Crisis Center’s volunteers, staff and community partners.

The San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Office of Diversity and Equity is honored to continue to partner with StarVista on suicide prevention efforts.

Visit our previous blog post to learn more about the services provided by the Crisis Center.

Cheers to 50 more years!

Invite Young People to Play A Role in Suicide Prevention


Helping young people learn the warning signs and how to intervene is a crucial life skill that will prepare them to support their friends and family members. Fortunately, there are many exciting programs that offer unique and interesting ways to engage young people in suicide prevention.

The Directing Change Program & Film Contest encourages young people ages 14-25 to create 60-second films about suicide prevention and mental health. Host a local screening, encourage young people to submit a film to the contest, or host a local screening, or ask your local movie theater to show a film. To view and download films and find several suicide prevention resources for schools and young people, visit

Active Minds Suicide Prevention Month 2016 is encouraging supporters to highlight the reasons they speak up about mental health and suicide prevention by using the hashtag #ReasonsISpeak and cumulating in Active Minds National Day Without Stigma on October 3, 2016.   A cornerstone of Active Minds Suicide Prevention Month is their blog series, which features the stories of suicide attempt survivors and survivors of suicide.  For blogs, social media events and Twitter chats visit

Daily Challenge: Be inspired!

  • Take 60 seconds to watch one Directing Change film today and share it via social media with #directingchange and #eachmindmatters. Watch one of four films created by San Mateo County youth at (select “San Mateo County” link).


What do I need to know about older adult suicide prevention?


When most people think about suicide, young people come to mind. What many people do not know is that suicide rates are higher among older adults than any other age group, particularly among men. Physical and social challenges related to aging can increase the risk of depression, anxiety and isolation, but help is available for coping with these challenges.

Warning signs of suicide for older adults

How the warning signs are expressed or what you might hear or observe can be different from a younger person.

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawal
  • Preoccupied with death
  • Looking for means to self-harm
  • Changes in sleep
  • Saying goodbye
  • Increased substance use
  • Neglecting doctor’s orders
  • Failure to take care of self

If you observe these warning signs, especially if they are new or unusual for the person, or if something doesn’t seem right to you, take action. The most important thing to do is ask the person directly if they are considering killing themselves. Then listen and let them know you care and truly want to help.

Suggest a few services and supports. Offer to sit with them while they call, or accompany them to an office visit.

Daily Challenge: Find out what services and supports are available for older adults locally, compile a list and share. Think broadly. Consider supporting the work of one or more of these organizations by volunteering your time or skills.

For local crisis and suicide prevention resources or to get involved, visit

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