By outward appearances, Stav Reuven had it all: a loving family in Sunnyvale, a letter of acceptance to UC Davis, and a sensitive soul that expressed itself in art.
But Stav’s family knew better.
“Since the age of 12,” said Michal Reuven, Stav’s mother, “she suffered from depression. Everything affected her. She took it all very badly – the death of her grandfather, the Parkland [Florida] high school shootings. … We tried different treatments.
But in the end, nothing helped – no counseling, no antidepressants, no psychiatric intervention, no therapy dog, no constant support and dedication from her family.
In January 2021, Stav took enough pills to end his life at age 20. In the note she left, Stav wrote that she “was sorry we had to find her,” her mother said.
Stav’s death was far from an isolated tragedy in Silicon Valley, which for years has seen what experts in the field have called “cluster suicides” among young people between the ages of 10 and 24. For the past decade, the area — and Palo Alto, in particular — has been in the national spotlight for its unusually high incidence of teen suicides.
The prevalence of major depression in the United States is highest among the 18-25 age group, according to recent data from the National Institute of Mental Health, which showed that 17% have experienced an episode. major depressive in 2020, double the 8.4% figure among all adults.
The rate of major depressive episodes with debilitating consequences among young people aged 12 to 17 was also high (12%), according to statistics from the NIMH.
That so many young people are suffering from major depression is no surprise to therapist Van Hedwall, director of programs for San Francisco Suicide Prevention, which runs 24/7 phone and text helplines, as well as education and bereavement programs.
The pressures facing children, teens and young adults are enormous, Hedwall said, and never more intensely than in the Bay Area, where, given the high level of education, parents place a high value on success. school.
“The need for perfection is so high,” said Hedwall, who said he and his colleagues hear “horror stories” from young callers and texters “that they will never get into college. “.
With inflated grade point averages, Hedwall said, kids are signaling to him that they need a “5.0 now, not a 4.0.”
Cyberbullying through the use of mobile devices, Hedwall added, has also created an uncontrollable situation in which the humiliation of a teenager leaves deep and indelible scars. It is no longer true, he said, that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”, especially when those words are floating around in cyberspace for all everyone can see them.
From the age of 12, she suffered from depression. Everything affected him. She took it all very badly.
But school stressors and cyberbullying are just parts of a very complex puzzle for understanding depression and suicide in children and young adults.
Reflecting on his daughter’s depression, Michal Reuven said Stav felt increasingly isolated from his peers after starting middle school. She suffered social rebuffs and other forms of bullying, and although the family intervened with the school, nothing fundamentally changed for the better.
“She was left on her own most of the time,” said Reuven, whose family emigrated from Israel 15 years ago. “She said she didn’t want to live.”
It was during shiva for Stav, she said, that “people shared their own stories of children with depression.” This prompted her to take action to ensure that other families would not face the grief she, her husband and Stav’s two siblings endured.
In the year since Stav’s death, Reuven has embarked on advocacy work to support programs that help young people at risk of depression and suicide, and she lobbied for funding for the issue. three-digit suicide prevention toll-free, 988 (which will become fully operational in July). Day or night, 988 callers will be put in touch with a crisis center and an advisor for immediate support.
The 988 number, Hedwall said, will provide “ease of use” and “ease of connection”.
Stav’s younger brother, Guy, has created a YouTube short tribute to his late sister in which he implores viewers to learn more about effective approaches to preventing suicides in loved ones.
He has also developed a clothing line, SKOOLIEZ, which incorporates the works of his sister. The majority of proceeds go to non-profit organizations that research depression and work to prevent suicides.
“Something has to be done,” said Michal Reuven. Preventing another suicide “may be my goal”.