The suicides of three students -- Dominique Chandler, Ian Smith-Christmas, and Whitney Mayer -- this calendar year at the College of William and Mary have prompted school officials to consider ways to reach out to students in need and stymie the college's rising reputation as a "suicide school."
The three events are anomalies in the school's history. Prior to this year, 11 suicides had taken place over the course of 43 years -- the last one taking place five years ago, the Washington Post reports.
William and Mary officials have taken steps to ensure that at-risk students are supported, hiring grief counselors as well as a case manager to identify and monitor students who appear unstable and working to instruct the student body to detect signs of depression in their peers. Still, many students were disappointed by the school's efforts when they failed to hire another counselor over the summer, despite the $57,000 allocated toward such resources.
William and Mary's student publication the Flat Hat notes the administration's warning against linking the deaths. Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler said that "although these three incidents, with three individual students, are not related ... it is not uncommon for, where there is a suicide, for there to be copycats, for lack of a better word. I think the most important thing is for us to talk openly about this issue."
The school's focus on increased awareness emerges from what students feel to be a stigma against asking for help. As senior Caitlin Goldblatt, a friend of Mayer, told the Post: that "none of the students on this campus want to have problems. They want to be perfect."
According to the Post, suicide is the second highest cause of death among college students. If you or someone you know needs help, seek it.
If you need help now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's toll-free number, 1-800-273-TALK (273-8255).