It’s been a challenging few weeks. The sudden and unexpected death by suicide of Counseling and Psychological Services Executive Director Gregory Eells has sent shock waves through our campus — and the nation. How could this have happened? How could a man who spent his professional career promoting resilience take his own life?
We are all struggling to answer this question, a question that, sadly, will forever remain unanswered. This ensuing frustration only adds to the initial sadness and anger we are experiencing.
Student response to this tragedy has been generous and reassuring. From CogWell’s hopeful notes on the LOVE Statue to an empathetic “Helpers Need Help, Too” editorial in The Daily Pennsylvanian, you remind us that we can and must continue to take care of each other. Many of you attended last week’s Community Conversation, “Coming Together to Share a Story: Finding Strength in Vulnerability.” Please mark your calendars for our next Community Conversation (on Oct. 21 in the Hall of Flags) featuring 2015 College graduate Shadrack Frimpong, a President’s Engagement Prize winner and the inspirational founder of Cocoa360.
Penn remains steadfastly committed to your health and wellness. I am personally overseeing the transition at CAPS. As a psychiatrist and administrator, I am aided in this work by four extraordinary veteran CAPS clinicians: Dr. Cyndy J. Boyd, Ph.D.; Dr. Batsirai Bvunzawabaya, Ph.D., Jane E. Kotler, LCSW; and Dr. Michal Nina Saraf, Psy.D.
We remind students that you have 24/7 phone access to clinicians (215-898-7021) and can be seen immediately during business hours by dropping into CAPS (3624 Market St.). Wait times for initial appointments generally average just a few days. And CAPS services are free.
Next week, we launch Let’s Talk, which brings drop-in clinical access to spaces where students study and socialize — such as the ARCH, the Graduate Student Center, the Greenfield Intercultural Center, the LGBT Center, and Van Pelt Library. Initially, Let’s Talk will consist of at least five blocks of time — about 20 hours a week — for brief, immediate conversations with counselors. Any undergraduate, graduate, or professional student can utilize Let’s Talk, which complements the embedded clinician model we offer in professional schools and at Wharton. We expect the hours and number of locations to grow with student interest.
When Dr. Eells came to campus last spring, he set a goal of introducing Penn to the Let’s Talk program he spearheaded at Cornell “to meet students where they are, when they need us.” I cannot think of a better way to honor his memory.
In solidarity and with compassion,
Dr. Benoit Dubé, Chief Wellness Officer and Associate Vice Provost
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