In this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News
, an important and sobering story by Jyllian Kemsley
on the life and 2016 death by suicide of Anna Owensby, a 4th-year graduate student in the Department of Molecular Medicine at Scripps in La Jolla, CA.
The story is long and convoluted enough that I hesitate to summarize it. It is worth reading in full, if only to understand who Anna Owensby was, the complex interplay between her and her advisers and the response of the institution to her situation, which ultimately ended with Scripps' removing her from their program, and her subsequent death by suicide.
I am still formulating all of my thoughts about this, but I will say this: I don't know about you, but I read about the 1998 death by suicide of Jason Altom
when I was a graduate student in the mid-2000s, and it shocked me to my core. My department didn't have much in the way of mental health resources in the mid-2000s. It is plainly amazing to me that graduate research institutions are still
playing catch-up in addressing the potential for mental health problems in their midst. (In the article, you can read a bit about both the University of Minnesota and Harvard's efforts to promote good mental health in their departments.)
I hope that this article will remind the academic chemistry community that this problem hasn't gone away. Read the whole thing.