Student's death a loss to the community

By Grace Olson
On February 1, 2005

Tragedy struck the University of New Hampshire during the holiday break, as a female student was found dead in her Madbury Rd. Apartment. Durham police determined the death to be a suicide. While police chief Rene Kelly respectfully declined to go into details of the suicide, he did reveal that the death occurred sometime in the afternoon of December 31st, 2004, at 24 Madbury Rd. The students name was Ashley-Kilborn Peterson.

President Hart released a statement through the University stating, "the university community is deeply saddened by the untimely death of Ashley. Her death is an enormous tragedy for her classmates and friends, and most especially her family. We offer them all our deepest sympathy and will keep them in our prayers and thoughts in the days and moths to come." The statement went on to say that "student affairs staff and others are working to identify Ashley's peer groups for support and counseling as needed."

Local media coverage of the suicide was sparse, and many students returning from winter break expressed shock and dismay upon hearing the news. "I didn't know about it at all," sophomore Pat Jackson said, "its very surprising news to me, UNH is a pretty happy place, so I am very surprised."

Fellow sophomore Ryan Hubbard echoed his classmates sentiment. " I did not know about it at all, and yes it comes as a surprise to me," Hubbard said over a late afternoon pizza. As to what aspects of college life might lead a student to thoughts of suicide, Hubbard eluded to the daily stress of college life. "Grades are a very important thing, but I think the social aspect of college is the hardest part." Hubbard remembers that when his father attended UNH, "there was a suicide when we was here, but that was back in 1980, other than that, I have only heard of other suicides at college."

Unfortunately, the act of suicide has and continues to be a real issue at college campuses across the country. Last December, in The New York Times, Karen W. Arenson reported that a suicide study preformed in the 1980's, "found a rate of about 7.5 per 100,000 students, which is about half the rate for young adults not in college and represents about 1,100 suicides a year for the entire college population." Last September, in The New Hampshire, Doctor David Cross of the UNH counseling center stated that "UNH averages one suicide a year, but the average also suggests that there are multiple attempts every year." Dr Cross also stressed that a suicide can "be a difficult death to grieve, and can have a ripple effect across our campus."

Not only can a suicide deeply affect a college community, it can also hamper the respective university or college. Vice president of United Educators, Anne H. Franke remarked in the same New York Times article last December that, "there can be severe claims financially, not to mention the emotional and reputational impact they can have on a school. In a clear cut example of what Mrs. Franke warned about, The New York Times reported that the family of an MIT student who committed suicide, "has sued MIT for $27 million."

While details of this particular incident at UNH remain vague, the proximity of the death hit home to one sophomore. "I haven't heard anything about it at all," Bobby O'Brien admitted, "but suicide can happen anywhere at anytime, and people here should know about it, so that they can help stop suicide from happening."

UNH students can help to do their part in preventing suicide by keeping abreast of their friends emotional state. A Brown University psychological services study on suicide, points out that "eight out of ten persons who commit suicide have spoken about their intent before killing themselves." The study also lists the common warning signs of possible suicidal activity, which are, "a previous suicide attack, talking about suicide, drug or alcohol abuse, feeling hopeless or helpless, deep depression, and loss of interest in friends or hobbies."

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