Dealing with Recent Deaths at WPI

Published 1 year ago -

Written by Maureen Lynch

*Warning: This article contains discussion of suicide. If you or anyone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide call 1-800-273-8255*

The pressures of college life can take a toll on a student’s mental health. However, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 90% of college students have experienced a downturn in their mental health, according to Dartmouth College, Yale University, and Harvard University, have all been in the news the past few years for an increase in student deaths via suicide.

Worcester Polytechnic Institution has seen four students die this semester, at least two of them ruled as suicides. Due to these recent tragedies, on Thursday, November 4, students gathered with administration to hold a memorial for the students and to discuss what can be done to help students moving forward.

“When I first heard about the most recent death, I could literally feel a pain in my chest,” said a WPI student who will be referred to as Orcawarrior2.

According to Boston 25 News, four students have died since July. Two of the deaths are still under investigation, however, the other two were ruled suicides. The most recent death occurred November 1, according to WCVB News.

Christian Chadwick, who was one of the students who took part in creating the plans for the memorial, is a senior at WPI who is studying aerospace engineering. When he heard about the recent deaths on campus, he knew he had to do something.

“I was mad I didn’t do anything,” said Chadwick. “I feel like I need to do something.”

Chadwick and a few other students organized a campus wide protest through Reddit, hoping to show their discontent with how the school had handled the deaths. According to an email sent to students by WPI’s President, Laurie Leshin, met with the organizers to change the protest into a create a memorial for the students. Instead, students were invited to wear black, participate in a memorial march and were invited to speak about their struggles with mental health as a tribute.

 “President Leshin met with the organizers and instead of an angry march it was turned into a mournful memoriam, coupled with a time for students to air grievances,” said Orcawarrior2.

After the march, WPI’s administration began work on making changes to help students cope with their deteriorating mental health. According to an email sent to students by WPI’s President, Laurie Leshin, the school has implemented a 24/7 hotline, set up times for students to meet with grief counselors and are working to hire more personal to meet students’ mental health concerns.

However, the issue of suicide among college students is a mounting issue colleges across the nation are facing. Students from Assumption were posting information about the event on their Instagram stories. Chadwick reported that students from other schools in the area attended the memorial. In addition Assumption students have hosted an event on suicide prevention and are looking to host a training event soon.

“Schools in the area would probably help the most by offering their counseling services as overflow,” said Orcawarrior2, “There could also be more social events held in collaboration between the schools, these larger gatherings have been missing for the pandemic and could probably be brought back now.”

Chadwick recommended that other schools in the Worcester area may be able to help by reaching out to WPI students.

“If you have a friends who are at the school, reach out, ask how they’re doing,” said Chadwick. “I’m sure they’re stressed out about something [and just] bond over being stressed out about things because that’s probably the best way to help someone… [like] ‘my life sucks too.’”

Orcawarrior2 spoke about how the mood at WPI has still been increasingly low weeks later. Students on campus have frequently begun to participate in class remotely. As for Orcawarrior2, they are trying to get through by sticking close to friends.

“My small group of friends has gotten much more insistent on planning gatherings, and making sure that we all spend more time together,” said Orcawarrior2. “I am grateful to those friends who are in better mental shape for helping the rest of us out of the gloom.”

Students at WPI are now doing their best to move forward.

“Talk about it with other people,” Chadwick said when asked what advice he would give to students struggling right now. “Don’t keep it to yourself. Keeping it to yourself, it’s the same thing as being alone.”

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