Santa Clara County has received attention in recent years from media and mental health professionals concerned about the alarming rates of mental health issues among youth. For example, in Palo Alto, specifically, there were an unusual amount of teen suicide clusters over the past decade. Between two Palo Alto high schools, the suicide rate is four or five times the national average.
And Palo Alto is only one of the many counties in Santa Clara. There’s also Alviso, Campbell, Coyote, Cupertino, Gilroy, Holy City, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Mount Hamilton, Mountain View, Redwood Estates, San Jose, San Martin, Santa Clara, Saratoga, Stanford, and Sunnyvale.
Every county has its own share of teen mental health issues.
Suicide Statistics for Santa Clara High School Students
The most up-to-date information about Santa Clara County youth suicide and mental health comes from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Epi-Aid Report published in 2017.
The CDC initiated the Santa Clara County Epi-Aid report in response to the Palo Alto teen suicide clusters which appeared around 2010. The data from the report covers all the counties in Santa Clara, not just Palo Alto.
Here are some key findings from the 2017 report as well as other sources including the California Healthy Kids surveys:
- Youth suicide has increased in the area consistently, along with the rest of the state and nation, since 2003.
- Suicides are more common among males than females, and more common among young adults age 20-24 than other age groups.
- 229 teens and young adults in Santa Clara County committed suicide from 2003-2015—and that’s not counting failed suicide attempts.
- More than 60% were age 20 to 24
- 75% were male
- Almost 40% were Caucasian, followed by 27% Asian/Pacific Islander, 27% Hispanic, and 4% African American.
- Most youth who died by suicide had a recent crisis or a current mental health problem.
Here’s more detail about teens and suicidal ideation:
- Between 15% – 19% of high school students in Santa Clara County report that they had seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months.
- On average, about 1 in 5 (17%) of high school students in this county seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months.
- This percentage is higher among females than males.
Overall Suicide Statistics for Santa Clara County
Though teen suicide is on the rise around the country, overall suicides in Santa Clara County are on the decline. The following statistics were compiled by the Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services Department (BHSD):
- In 2019, the suicide rate in Santa Clara County was 7.5 suicides per 100,000 people. This is the lowest suicide rate (7.5) of any county in California.
- This is a decline from the rate of 7.77 suicides per 100,000 people in 2015, but a slight increase from 95 suicides per 100,000 people in 2017.
- There were 142 completed suicides in Santa Clara County, CA in 2017
Preventing Suicide in Santa Clara County
Santa Clara County has taken large efforts to curb its suicide rate over the past few years. According to a 2019 news release by the Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services Department (BHSD), the organization did the following in the past few years:
- Established partnerships with seven Santa Clara County school districts to organize suicide prevention trainings for high school teachers and school staff
- Strengthened community partnerships in Palo Alto and Morgan Hill (cities with the highest rates of youth suicide within Santa Clara County).
- Implemented a suicide prevention campaign aimed at youth; establishing a countywide partnership with the Crisis Text Line (Santa Clara County residents can text RENEW to 741741 to receive immediate, confidential mental health support.)
- Expanded mobile crisis response teams to the general public for mental health emergencies
- Spread awareness on safe suicide reporting to Bay Area media
We hope – along with everyone around the country, and in Santa Clara County in particular – that these ongoing suicide prevention efforts will result in an even greater decline in the teen suicide rate in Santa Clara County in the coming years.