Letter regarding recent deaths of MIT community members

The following letter was submitted to the Tech by Alan Siegel today:

Dear editors of the Tech and members of the MIT community:

In recent days, the Tech has reported on the deaths of seven members of the MIT community (including emeriti faculty), and as part of its reporting it has provided information about the causes of death. In three cases, the reported cause was suicide.

All of the deaths are and will be painful to those who knew and loved the departed. But I write especially to those members of the MIT community who have lost someone they care about to suicide.

With these tragedies, it is natural and normal to have powerful, sometimes puzzling reactions. We question life, ourselves, and life’s meaning. In times like this, it’s important for us to look after each other, and to pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, and reactions of people we know and care about.

At the foot of this letter, you’ll find online resources that many people dealing with suicide have found very helpful. But all of the information in these websites does not match the help that each of us can receive from our friends, families, and colleagues. I encourage you to talk about this with people you know and care for. Certainly the staff at Mental Health and Counseling are available to talk with you in groups and individually, by appointment and more urgently.  Please call 617-253-2916 anytime and ask to speak with one of our clinicians. After hours and weekends, a staff member is available by phone 24/7 for urgent concerns.

Let me finally say that if you are suffering from issues surrounding suicide, you are truly not alone. In the most recent year for which we have data, suicide accounted for 12 deaths for every 100,000 people nationwide, making it the country’s 10th leading cause of death. Unlike many other leading causes of death, suicide continues to claim more lives each year. Coming to terms with a given death by suicide is complex and challenging; I urge you, if you are having a hard time or feel confused in any way, to allow the MIT community to embrace you. Because, truly, it will.

Alan E. Siegel, Ed.D

Chief, Mental Health and Counseling Service

Helpful additional resources:

MIT Medical on: How can I help someone I’m worried about?

MIT Medical on: Common reactions to abnormal events

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

The Jed Foundation

Topics: Students, Faculty, Staff, Letters to the Community


These suicides are a tragedy, and we should thank Alan and his team for making these resources available.

But a larger question remains: what is MIT doing to prevent these tragedies, to foster a culture and environment that is more supportive, more nurturing?

It's easy to respond and react. It's more difficult -- and more valuable -- to have the introspection necessary to conclude that changes need to be made.

Of course these tragedies are a matter of individuals, but they also speak to a broader issue in this community.


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