UPenn counseling director dies by suicide

By Sarah Adamo
Correspondent

The University of Pennsylvania’s head of psychological and counseling services, Gregory Eells, died by suicide on Sept. 9. 

According to CBS, the death of the 52-year-old was the result of various blunt impact injuries from Eells’ jump off a 17-story structure within Center City Philadelphia that morning at around 6:40 a.m. that morning. Police told The Philadelphia Inquirer that no note was left on behalf of Eells.

According to CBS, Eells assumed the role of department director for UPenn in March. To inform the student body of his sudden passing, the school released a statement to its students while offering condolences to his family. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Eells, who worked at Cornell University for more than 10 years, admitted to his mother that his new job was more difficult than he had imagined and impeded on his time with his wife and three children back in Ithaca, New York. 

“‘We are confused,’” his mother, Jeanette Eells-Rich told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “‘He was the most smiling, upbeat person I have met in my life.’” 

Eells’ story is not the only one on the university’s campus — many other spirited individuals have been lost. The Daily Pennsylvanian reported that 14 students have died by suicide since February 2013 at UPenn alone, making wellness an utmost priority for its administration.

While Eells’ death is devastating the Philadelphia community, his struggles fit into the larger context of National Suicide Prevention week, which began on Sept. 8. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that students nationwide have been reacting to Eells’ death, and are calling for open dialogue about suicide and mental health.

Eells’ death opens dialogue about mental health (Flickr).

UPenn senior bioengineering major Lauren Drake echoed her peers, revealing that the school’s letter to students regarding Eells’ death did not mention the suicide ruling.

“‘We talk in these abstract terms, and when there are these concrete and heavy topics, everyone shies away,’” she told The Philadelphia Inquirer. 

Alongside open discussion, forging relationships between counselors and students is also a valuable tool to recover from such incidents and prevent them in the future, a goal to which Eells’ death and legacy has contributed. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that students can receive training to become peer counselors as well, providing ample resources for those with anxiety or those who simply need a consultant. 

UPenn is affiliated with Project Lets, a group that raises awareness for mental health and offers a support base to those in need. With 10 student leaders, and having trained 450 Penn students in this previous year in listening skills and how to be attentive to signs indicating poor mental health, the group plans to train 1,000 more students this year, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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