May 5, 2007

University Suicides On Schedule


mit suicides 


I came across this in my regular survey of the internet: a student (?)  listed all the suicides at MIT hung it up in a bus schedule frame.

The suicides' names, ages, method, etc, can be found here.   

But there are a few notable findings:

First, you should know that MIT and Harvard have some of the highest suicide rates. 

But, strangely, almost half of the suicides at MIT were grad students or former grads-- 13/30 since 1990.  (Since 1980 , 16 grads at MIT vs. 8 at Harvard.)

Since 1990, there have been a lot of suicides by jump off a building-- 10/29.  In the U.S., this is extremely rare, while in Hong Kong, 50% of suicides are jumps from buildings.  (None of the jumpers here were even Asian.)  (The only school that comes close is a rash of six jumpers in 2004 at NYU (no Asians.)  The first three happened witin 30 days of each other, and the last two happened in the same week a year later.   Only 1 was a grad student.  As near as I can tell, NYU hasn't had any jumpers before or since-- in fact, they hadn't had any suicides since 1996.)

A lot were women: 7/29 (25%), 8/29 if you count the Wellesely student who was renting on campus.   In the U.S., it's 15-20% females.

8/29 were non-white males;  4/29 were non-white females, so 12/29 were not white. In the U.S., non-whites represent about 10% of all suicides.  And 2/3 of non-white suiciders in the U.S. are black.

February was the most popular month for suicides (6), January second place (4).  

All three suicides that occurred in April (2000, 2001, 2003) were women.  2000 and 2001 were both sophomore women, who died on 4/10 (burning/OD) and 4/30 (cyanide poisoning.)

I don't have the demography of MIT, but it seems that grad students, Asians and women are at higher risk for suicide at MIT.

And if someone asks you how to get to the roof, lie.


(NB: MIT students, I know, small samples and statistical significance.  I know.)

(Second NB: I looked into each suicide as best as I could, and I was able to supplement the spreadsheet linked above.  For example, I found two additional jumps from buildings.  But in this process it discovered that one "suicide" (KM) might not have been a suicide; and, even more interesting, he was linked to the suicide of another student at MIT (RG).  I use the initials here, but their full names are clearly public, and already contained in the spreadsheet.)

(Third NB: to the guy who made the suicide schedule-- some of the dates and methods are wrong (for example, April.)  Nothing major, but if you want my list let me know.)


another great post - thanks... (Below threshold)

May 6, 2007 6:45 AM | Posted by lucette: | Reply

another great post - thanks. (have found your recent writings on Cho Seung-Hui to be incisive.) i've only had time to skim briefly but i suspect some data from the graph were taken from (or contingent to) this pdf on Suicide as a Poisson Process.

a Reader Request this time, if I may. what, in your opinion, is the difference in definition between a sociopath and a psychopath? neither are strictly DSM terms, but both are slung about near-arbitrarily by the media and other sources; what with your being a psychiatrist, I'd be interested in what you have to say on the matter.

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MIT has tons of Asian stude... (Below threshold)

May 6, 2007 8:15 AM | Posted by Erosia: | Reply

MIT has tons of Asian students, so I bet they are at higher risk for anything - getting A's, being in the glee club, falling off of a buildings etc.

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Lucette--I'm not s... (Below threshold)

May 6, 2007 2:51 PM | Posted by Admin: | Reply


I'm not sure if that article "Suicide as a Poisson Process" is not a joke? For example, it says, "We agreed upon the following plausible hypotheses: that living under the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon causes suicide."

But they do reasonably conclude that suicides seem to occur around exams, though the small numbers mean statistics are likely to be off.

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