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An Overview of Mental Health in Palo Alto, California
Across the United States, mental illness is creating a health crisis in all types of communities. While many demographics, such as minorities and the poor, are often disproportionately affected, mental illness can affect anyone regardless of age, race, class or gender. One example of its non-discriminatory nature is the city of Palo Alto, California.
Palo Alto at a Glance
Located in Santa Clara County, Palo Alto is an affluent community with a population of approximately 67,000 residents. Palo Alto is in the middle of Silicon Valley, a capital in the tech industry. It is home to some of the largest tech and social media companies in the world. Palo Alto itself is headquarters to a variety of large companies such as Tesla and HP. The median income for residents was over $147,000 in 2017. In contrast, the median income for the state of California was just under $72,000.
Palo Alto residents have a huge rate of higher education. This isn’t surprising considering the number of high-tech employers. Almost 30 percent of adults over the age of 25 possess a bachelor’s degree, while over 50 percent have earned a graduate degree.
Mental Health in Palo Alto
As previously mentioned, there is often concern regarding disadvantaged demographics not receiving the treatment they need for mental health. This is definitely the case in many areas of the country and is an issue that needs attention. For example, the issue of homelessness is often intertwined with the problems of mental health and substance abuse. However, mental illness is not solely a problem among the poverty-stricken. In fact, the opposite is often also true.
Youth Suicide Rate
Santa Clara County was the recent subject of an emergency epidemic investigation by the CDC regarding multiple strings of youth suicides. A “suicide cluster” refers to a group of suicides occurring within a short amount of time in a small geographical area. These generally occur a few times annually throughout the US. However, Palo Alto experienced two “clusters” within a decade – a serious cause for concern.
The CDC “Epi-Aid” report stated that between 2003 and 2015, the suicide rate for individuals aged 10 to 24 years old in Palo Alto was 14.1 per 100,000. While the larger city of San Jose (also located in Santa Clara County) had a higher count of suicides in the same age group, its rate per 100,000 was only 4.6.
Why would an affluent and successful community like Palo Alto be facing a suicide epidemic? Aside from its high income and education rates, the city also has very low unemployment and poverty rates, at 2.5 percent and 6 percent, respectively. It may be easy to think that such a community and its residents must “have it all.” In reality, there are many factors that could contribute to a mental health crisis there. Students may be facing a high level of pressure to perform well in school in order to live up to the area’s educational standard. Becoming an academic over-achiever is likely expected to be able to compete in a job market that is dominated by some of the most successful employers on earth. Stressors like these can contribute to mental illness just as easily as can financial insecurity or poor job markets.
Another factor that often comes into play with mental health is race, and it appears that Palo Alto is no exception. Almost 55 percent of the city’s population is white, 32 percent is Asian, 7 percent is Hispanic and 1 percent is black. While each group certainly faces its own issues, the large Asian population is of particular interest in this case, because 40 percent of the “suicide cluster” victims were of Asian descent. With many parents in the area being immigrants, language and cultural barriers may complicate the acknowledgment of mental health problems.
Resources in Palo Alto
No matter your background, it is not uncommon to be affected by mental illness. Fear and stigma can make it difficult to reach out for help, but know that you are not alone. There are many others facing similar issues, and there are resources available to help you cope. The City of Palo Alto website has a list of resources for residents. Another resource you can utilize is E-Counseling. E-Counseling is an online directory designed to help you locate a mental health professional in your area who meets your personal needs. You can take the first step toward a happier, healthier you today.