Widgets Magazine

Local teens act out against suicide

Dear Palo Alto,” an arts showcase responding to the Palo Alto suicides of recent years, will take place Saturday, Nov. 6, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Cubberley Community Center Theater in Palo Alto. Julia Tachibana, the local and UC-Davis student who created the event, was inspired by her personal connection with suicide.

Tachibana’s brother, Ben, a sophomore at Palo Alto High School when Tachibana was a junior, took his own life at age 15 in 2003. Tachibana was further driven to action by the four suicides at Gunn High School in 2009.

“I knew I wanted to help, and I thought about using art, because it’s such a constructive medium,” Tachibana said. “I thought about devoting a night solely to art in order to open up a dialogue about these issues.”

The event, which is free and open to all, received aid from a number of local organizations, including Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Break Through The Static, a local nonprofit devoted to helping teens who have lost someone to suicide, and the city’s Community Services Division, which provided the venue free of charge.

The show—mostly written and produced by the student performers—will feature a variety of dancing, singing and drama, as well as physical artwork submitted by local teens. Members of the Stanford Theater Activist Mobilization Project will also be performing.

“One of the strategies is youth outreach and elevating youth voice,” said Rob de Geus, who manages recreation activities in the Community Services Division. “This event that Julia has come up with is aligned with some of the goals that we have with Project Safety Net, so that’s why we wanted to help her make it happen.”

Project Safety Net is the community collaborative that promotes social and emotional health for Palo Alto youth.

In addition, a special city support team was assembled to ensure the topic was dealt with in a safe and appropriate manner. But Tachibana expressed confidence in dealing with such a sensitive issue, and emphasized the caution she has taken.

“I think have had such a personal connection with suicide, I’ve been able to gauge pretty well what would and wouldn’t be appropriate,” Tachibana said. “Still, we have to remember that there will be a wide range of people in the audience, including some who have never talked about it, so we definitely want this to be a very safe event.”

“I just want to stress the point that although this is a really sensitive topic, we have to come forward and talk about it,” she added. “If we don’t, who will?”

Molly Butera, bassist for the local band After Closing Time whose members attend Gunn, said that they decided to audition for the event after seeing flyers around town.

“Music has always been something that lets us release our stress and puts us in a good mood,” Butera wrote in an e-mail to The Daily, “So we decided to share that with others and show them that there are healthy ways you can release stress and have fun at the same time.”

As with many of the other acts, After Closing Time will perform primarily original works.

Tachibana hopes that the event will let teens know that they are not alone, and that help is out there.

“I think we also want to lift the stigma of reaching out for help,” she said.  “I myself had to learn that you won’t really get better until you let people reach out to you.”