Posted by: Louis Lavelle on March 31, 2010
Bloomberg is reporting today that the young man who leaped to his death from the Empire State Building yesterday was a Yale junior, Cameron Dabaghi. His death follows six suicides at Cornell since September, including three in the last six weeks.
In the immediate aftermath of the most recent deaths at Cornell, campus police there have posted officers at the bridges that span Ithaca’s famous gorges, and several other schools have begun taking precautions against a “suicide contagion.” The Harvard Crimson is reporting that University Health Services is educating students on how to help depressed peers. Boston University has undertaken similar efforts. And at the University of Pennsylvania, Bill Alexander, interim director of counseling and psychological services, told the Daily Pennsylvanian: “We are just checking and rechecking the system to make sure we don’t get rusty or complacent.”
All the recent deaths involved undergraduates, and the explanations offered by assorted experts have run the gamut, but one of the big ones was the high-pressure atmosphere of the Ivy League. True enough, I suppose, but it occurs to me that if any student group is subject to serious, debilitating pressure it’s not undergrads…it’s graduate students, particularly graduate business students.
Think about it. If you’re reading this blog you probably have shelled out something close to $300,000 for a top-notch education (including forgone salary) and you’re under intense pressure to find a job that will make it all worthwhile—a job that right now may be a figment of your imagination. When you entered your program, you were out of school for five years or more, and suddenly you’re knee-deep in advanced math, business jargon, and bad study habits. At some schools all the first years might stand around singing Kumbaya, but let’s face it, the atmosphere at many top schools (for jobs, internships, even classes) is one of intense, even cutthroat competition.
All of which raises the question: how do you deal with the pressure? Are mental health issues like depression—and yes, suicide—a big concern at business school? And is enough being done to help students? The suicides at Cornell are clearly a wake-up call. But what can be done to help students as they struggle with issues like these?