Suicides at MIT


A third student has taken his own life at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A freshman, Matthew L. Nehring, 18, was from Colorado. He apparently committed suicide early Sunday. L. Rafael Reif, the MIT president,  sent an email to the school. There will be a communal gathering Tuesday in the Memorial Lobby of Building 10 at 6 p.m.

Police in Cambridge responded to a “sudden death” call at about 1:40 a.m. from the campus police. The spokesperson for Cambridge police, Jeremy Warnick, said in a statement that, “Nehring’s death followed the apparent suicides of two other students who committed suicide in September.” Austin Travis, 26, was a chemistry graduate student who died September 3, and Phoebe Wang, a mechanical engineering sophomore who died 20 days later on September 23.

Sunday afternoon there was a dorm meeting, that included representatives from MIT Student Support Services and MIT Mental Health, chaplains, graduate resident tutors and Chancellor Cynthia A. Barnhart PhD. They gathered to encourage students to talk about the suicide, the loss of a friend, depression, and stress. There are a multitude of things that can create suicidal idealizations, even lack of sleep.

Since 2014, two others have committed suicide at MIT, a graduate student and a professor. MIT has one of the nation’s most complete counseling programs. There have been some improvements following a series of suicides the past several decades. These are the people that know if your thoughts of suicide warrant more help than they can give you.

Elizabeth Shin committed suicide in 2000. Elizabeth’s parents sued the university, claiming that the school did not do enough to protect her. The lawsuit was settled in 2006.

There is currently another lawsuit that was filed in 2011. Han Duy Nguyen, a 25-year-old doctoral student, who committed suicide when he jumped to his death in 2009. His family also sued two professors and an associate dean.

MIT President Reif encouraged students to get help, to reach out and get psychological services. Just contact MIT’s Mental Health Services. It is not easy to do, but it will save a life. President Reif also called on everyone to look out for one another, pay attention to others. A smile, a kind word can make a difference. He reminded the students that they are a community.

If one is considering suicide, even for just a second, tell someone. It only takes a one second reaction to follow through with that suicidal ideation.  More people understand what is going on than one might realize. Everyone has bills, homework, teachers they cannot stand, things they cannot seem to understand. There is heartbreak, and death and disparity. Beyond all of that though, there are blue skies, blooming flowers, newborn babies, the laughter of children. If people would just stop, when they are stressed or tired, but overwhelmed, just stop. Look around and see what is there to see, smell, and hear. This moment is but a moment and it will end. Suicide is forever.

Tomorrow is a new day, with new challenges and new dreams and new ideas. Tomorrow one can change the world, but for today just “be,” do not move, just breathe slowly and take it all in. Take in the goodness, soak it up, then blow out the bad. It is gone for now. What needs to be dealt with, will be dealt with, but not alone and not right now. Right now experience life from within. Suicide, like that which happened at MIT, is not the answer.

By Jeanette Smith


The Boston Globe


Photo courtesy of Ronald Saunders – Flickr License

Photo Courtesy of Nell Howard – Flickr License

3 Responses to "Suicides at MIT"

  1. Rodrick Akin   March 9, 2019 at 3:39 pm

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  2. Robert   March 20, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    The problem is not due to any weakness on the part of psychological/medical services at “the institute.”

    The problem is that some professors treat undergrads like they are ignorant trash. You get treated like that often enough and eventually you really start to believe it. I remember a physics final (yes, I’m an alum) that was so difficult, the class average was around 30%. The professor told us his 10 year old son could have done better – essentially that we were idiots. How nice of him to say that.

    The truth is that he didn’t keep up with his own lesson plan, and had to squeeze about one-third of the semester’s work into less than 2 weeks. Of course class average is going to be low under circumstances like that.

    I went into that final with a decent shot at getting an A for the semester. After the final exam, I barely got a C. Two points lower (out of 300 total) and I would have gotten a D. This is just one example out of dozens.

    Why do this to 18, 19, etc year old kids? It’s the professors who need psychological services.

    — Alum Class of 1974 —

  3. Jill   March 2, 2015 at 5:51 am

    sad to see a young life ended. I think in future we will develop better tools for predicting success in colleges as competitive as MIT and the Ivies. Temperament, I think, is at least as important as intellect, in determining how we will handle stress. Someone, I forget who, attributed FDR’s success as President of the US during one of our most perilous times, not to his intellect, but to his temperament. I feel terrible about this young man’s death and for his bereaved family.


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