Penn community copes with latest suicide
Many parts of the University are making themselves available to students
February 6, 2014, 12:03 am·
The University administration is discussing ways to move forward following the second student suicide in three weeks, but details of those talks have not yet been released.
College sophomore Elvis Hatcher, who committed suicide Tuesday, is the fourth Penn student to die since the beginning of winter break.
“We’re a caring community and when you care, you respond in the best way you can and shore up the experts on the ground so all of our students can get all the help that they need in weathering the sadness,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.
Gutmann, along with Provost Vincent Price and Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, sent emails to parents and students earlier this week listing mental health resources available on campus and addressing the stigma surrounding mental health.
“When there are sudden deaths like there have been, we need to really help those who are being stressed by it,” Gutmann said.
As the community copes with the tragic events that have taken place over the past several weeks, different parts of the University are making themselves available to students.
Counseling and Psychological Services continues to take measures to improve its aid to students. “We’ve opened up evening hours and we’re trying to get more efficient in how we help,” CAPS Director Bill Alexander said Wednesday evening. CAPS announced last week that it would be hiring three new staffers for the remainder of the school year and extending its hours.
Many students have contacted CAPS recently, although it is difficult to determine the cause of the increase, Alexander said. However, he thought the influx “might even help to break down some stigma and maybe people will come that wouldn’t have come before.”
Across campus, groups and organizations are offering their services and resources. The Kelly Writers House has reached out to its members to provide support. A language instructor, who asked to remain anonymous, also emailed her students with a list of campus resources.
“I care deeply about my students’ well-being and would never forgive myself if my lack of reaching out was a contributing factor in an already difficult time,” she said. “I just wanted to let them know about the resources that the campus has for them, also in an attempt to destigmatize mental illness and depression and let them know that it’s OK to ask for help.”
In some college houses, resident advisers and graduate associates have made extra efforts to support their residents. RAs and GAs in Ware College House, for example, stayed in lounges throughout the dorm and left the doors to their rooms open for students who may need to talk, a Ware RA said.
Some students stressed the need for communication both among their peers and from the University.
“I think we have the right to know [because] we are all affected,” said College sophomore Ayla Fudala, who works at the Writers House, which Hatcher frequented.
Others hoped the community could come together to create dialogue about mental health.
“When you see the numbers adding up, it’s a really difficult thing to grapple with,” said College sophomore Antonia Diener, president of Reach-A-Peer Helpline, a student-run hotline. “There’s increased emphasis on mental health and wellness on campus, which is obviously something that we need.”
Staff writers Lauren Feiner, Laura Anthony and Cosette Gastelu contributed reporting.