On April 11th, Penn junior Ao “Olivia” Kong was killed by an oncoming SEPTA train near 40th Street Station. The death was later ruled a suicide. Now, a week-old petition imploring university officials to address the problems plaguing the school’s mental health resources has garnered nearly 5,000 signatures.
Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price released a statement addressing the community’s concerns and providing updates on the steps the school is taking to ramp up its mental health resources. Gutmann has called for the school’s Task Force on Student Psychological Health and Welfare to reconvene — it completed a year-long study on the subject in 2015 following several high-profile suicides at the school. The school had vowed to fight a culture of “destructive perfectionism.”
“We have asked the chairs of the Task Force, Anthony Rostain and Rebecca Bushnell, to immediately reconvene the Task Force to determine as expeditiously as possible what additional steps can be taken to help ensure the health and well-being of our students,” Gutmann and Price’s statement reads. The school has extended the hours of its counseling service (CAPS) in the wake of Kong’s death, but some Penn students have expressed extreme discontent with the school’s ability to treat students effectively. Read more »
Photo via Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute
University of Pennsylvania engineering student Stephen Kyle Wilshusen killed himself on December 31st making him the tenth University of Pennsylvania student to die by suicide in less than three years, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian. Read more »
Going “Home for the Holidays” can be chore — but it’s no worse than during the rest of the year.
The Annenberg Public Policy Center at Penn has some good news for people who appreciate accuracy in media: Last year, for the first time in four years, there was a decrease in the number of news stories that falsely associated holiday time with suicide. Annenberg’s analysis notes that the lowest suicide rate is between mid-November and January, yet for many years the majority of news outlets tended to perpetuate the holiday-suicide myth rather than contradict it. Read more »
The body of Timothy Hamlett, a Penn track star missing since December, was found in New York’s Hudson River over the weekend.
“On Monday afternoon, Katherine Hamlett confirmed that her son, former Penn junior Timothy Hamlett, had been found dead on Friday in the Hudson River. She said she believes her son jumped from the George Washington Bridge, committing suicide,” the Daily Pennsylvanian reports.
“We never had any indication that our son was suicidal at all. It is important to me that people do know that this is what he did,” Hamlett told the paper. “I don’t want to sweep it under the rug and avoid the reality of how he died.” Read more »
Sean McGrellis from his LinkedIn page
The friends and family of Sean McGrellis are grieving his loss after the 37-year-old Williamstown, New Jersey, man jumped from a balcony high up at Center City’s Embassy Suites Hotel on Saturday afternoon. He has been identified by the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office, and the death was ruled a suicide. Read more »
A university task force formed after a wave of suicides hit campus last year says Penn must fight a culture of “destructive perfectionism.”
The Daily Pennsylvanian reports:
The eight-page report focuses on “cultural change rather than structural change,” Co-Chair of the task force Anthony Rostain said.
“Destructive perfectionism,” according to Rostain, is one thing the Penn community needs to fight. The report contends “the drive for academic excellence along with the perception that in order to be successful one needs to hold leadership roles in multiple realms contributes to the amount of stress and distress experienced by Penn students.”
Read more »
A member of the Bucks County family accused of accumulating a fortune through insurance fraud, has killed himself.
Thomas French was married to Claire Risoldi. “Risoldi’s family set fires in their matriarch’s home so they could collect more than $20 million in insurance claims, then used the cash float an ‘excessively extravagant lifestyle’ marked by $1.2 million in jewelry and six Ferraris, according to charges announced last month by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane,” NBC 10 reports.
French, 64, “shot himself in front of a Risoldi family home” on Thursday, the station reported.
Read more »
A heartbreaking end to a heartbreaking week in Philadelphia, with news that 14*-year-old Skyler Baffa of Broomall, Delaware County, committed suicide on Thursday. Read more »
Tragic news out of Folsom, California today is the latest eye-opener to the fact that bullying is alive and well—and the repercussions can be devastating. News 10 reports on a 12-year-old boy who committed suicide after he faced bullying at school for being a cheerleader.
Last year, Ronin Shimizu was in sixth grade at Folsom Middle School and was the only boy on the Eagles cheer squad. Friends said he was bullied for being a cheerleader. The bullying got to be so bad, Ronin was taken out of school and had to be home-schooled. He was also being home schooled this year.
“He was bullied very badly,” Riley Coleman said as she teared up. The Folsom Middle School sixth grader was on the squad with Ronin last year. “It’s not ok to bully people,” she said through tears.
“So sad to know that people can hurt you that way,” student Allie Flahive said.
“I was devastated when I found out. I started crying,” Ronin’s friend Grace Velander said. “I’ve known him since 6th grade. Me and him had classes all last year together.”
“He was just a sweet child. For him to feel that hopeless is heart-breaking,” concerned parent Cynthia Brown said.
Read more »
Photo of woman at demolition site paying honor to one of the collapse victims. Photo: Laura Kicey.
The most recent Center City Residents Association Newsletter has an update on the memorial park proposed for 22nd and Market, the site of the June 2013 building collapse responsible for the death of seven people: artist Barbara Fox has been selected to design the memorial sculpture. From the newsletter:
As for her winning concept, Fox says she wanted the families to be able to personalize the memorial for themselves. “My idea was to have windows in a house-shaped piece, and each victim’s family could customize how the window would look so that it would mean something to them, like the color of the glass or the texture of the glass. The name of each of the six victims would be etched into the granite over each window. Then, there would be a seventh window for individuals who were injured in the collapse. Above that window it would say ‘for those we remember’. “
All due respect to Fox, who was obviously speaking very preliminarily, let’s memorialize the death of seven people, rather than six, so that Ronald Waggenhoffer is not forgotten. (In case you have forgotten him, read this piece about his suicide.) He was a victim too, and deserves his own window.