In the past two months, a very prominent department of chemistry in the United States reported the deaths of a graduate student and a postdoctoral fellow to its members. There have been no media reports.
In the past two years, another very prominent department of chemistry in the United States also suffered a death of one of its graduate students. There were also no media reports.
I'd like to ask for some advice here about my obligations to the families of the deceased, the affected department and the broader chemistry community in situations like this, especially those where it is clear that the cause of death was neither natural causes or foul play.
I believe I owe the families of the deceased and the affected department a sufficient period of time to mourn, privacy, discretion and fairness. If I were in such a situation, that's what I would ask of myself.
I believe that I owe the broader chemistry community accuracy, a certain level of transparency and a long-lasting record of those who have entered academia in the flower of their youth and died, potentially due to the mental health strains of graduate school. To even begin to try to solve a problem (or see if we have a problem at all*), you have to see how big the problem is - and I assert that we have no idea. Silence doesn't seem to be helpful, either.
Readers, I am open to your opinions on this, including the opinion that I am not a mental health professional and that publicly recording these deaths in any form may encourage suicidal ideation on the part of vulnerable graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. I want to do the right thing, and blogging about this may not be the right thing.
Important links: The National Suicide Prevention lifeline, warning signs of suicide
*We have no statistics about the relative rate of suicides amongst graduate students versus the general population.