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MIT Deaths Recast Spotlight On Student Suicide

Cornell University students cross the college's Thurston Avenue Bridge in Ithaca, N.Y. in 2010, a year that saw three students there fall from campus bridges. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)

Cornell University students cross the college's Thurston Avenue Bridge in Ithaca, N.Y. in 2010, a year that saw three students there fall from campus bridges. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)

Satto Tonegawa was the son of a Nobel-winning professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Funny and cool and beyond-belief smart,” is how his mother described him to The Boston Globe. Satto started his freshman year this fall at MIT. But on October 25, just five days before his 19th birthday, his body was discovered in his dorm-room, dead of asphyxiation.

Nicolas Del Castillo was a sophomore pursuing a math major at MIT, but three days before classes were set to start this year, Nicolas retreated to his room and hanged himself.

Two suicides in two months. “We’re in pain,” chancellor Eric Grimson told the Globe today. “I don’t think we’re every emotionally prepared to deal with something like this.”

MIT is reeling, but it is certainly not alone. Every year, 10 to 15 percent of college students seriously contemplate suicide. When a national survey asked universities if they’re seeing an increase in the number and severity of students with mental health problems, a staggering 90 percent said yes.

So today, we’re going to talk about it. If you’re a college student, or an administrator, a resident advisor, professor, or if you’re a parent … have you seen this rise of mental health struggles on campus? What makes those freshman and sophomore years so delicate and critical and difficult? What have universities done to help? What haven’t they done? And how can we move forward to reduce the number of students who might fall through the cracks?

Guests:

  • Divya Srinivasan, co-president, Active Minds at MIT.
  • Larry Kohn, director of development, Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation.
  • Victor Schwartz, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Yeshiva University and co-editor of “Mental Health Care in the College Community”
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