Jiwon Lee was a fourth-year dental student at Columbia University and president of Columbia’s American Student Dental Association. This past April, she took her life after leaving a note in her room apologizing for “not living up to expectations”. Jiwon was 29.
Kevin Lee (no relation to Jiwon) was a sophomore at Boston University. Originally from Brooklyn, he planned to major in biomedical engineering. This past April, Kevin also took his own life in his college dorm room. Kevin was 19.
Andrew Sun was also a sophomore, but he was studying economics at Harvard University. A transplant from New Jersey, Sun was a “bright student”, a “humble listener”, and an active participant in the campus’ inter-faith Harvard College Faith in Action student group. This past April, just days prior to Lee’s death, Sun took his own life. Andrew was 20.
In the span of just a few weeks and within 250 miles of each other, three unrelated Asian American college students committed suicide. And while we know their names, they are only 3 of the estimated nearly 150 college-aged Asian American students who will die by suicide this year: Asian Americans aged 20-24 have the highest suicide rate of all Asian Americans at 12.4 per 100,000, and have the highest rate of suicidal thoughts among all college-aged students. This rate also appears to be nearly 1.5x higher than the national suicide rate — 7 out of 100,000 — among college-aged students.
May 10 is AAPI Mental Health Awareness Day, and today, I am remembering Jiwon Lee, Kevin Lee, and Andrew Sun; and I want to take a minute to talk about all the Asian American college students who battle depression and other mental health disorders right now.
By all accounts, Andrew Sun ’16 was a “bright student”, a “humble listener” and a “mentor”. He was well-known on the Harvard campus for his involvement in the Harvard College Faith in Action group, a non-denominational Christian group. So, news of Sun’s death on Sunday evening from injuries sustained from a 7-story fall came as a shock and surprise; more so when the death was ruled a suicide. From the Harvard Crimson:
Sun, an Economics concentrator from New Jersey, died early Monday morning in Massachussets General Hospital, where he was being treated for injuries he sustained after jumping off a Boston building on Sunday. Sun, who was 20 years old at the time of his death, was a resident of Pforzheimer House.
In an email to Pforzheimer House residents, co-House Masters John R. Durant and Anne Harrington ’82 invited students to a community gathering in Pforzheimer on Thursday at 8 p.m. According to the email, there will be readings, music, a candle-lighting ceremony, and collective and private opportunities to share memories of Sun.
Well-known on campus for his active involvement in Harvard College Faith in Action, a non-denominational Christian group, Sun spent much of his time at the College praying with classmates and reading scripture, according to friends.
“He was always really eager to reach other people and pray for and with other people,” Shaun Y.S. Lim ’15, the president of HCFA, said.
According to Lim, Sun and a few of his friends started a morning prayer initiative last fall and invited community members to pray and read scripture with them at 8:45 a.m. every weekday.
John T. Hoffer ’16, a member of the service organization Phillips Brooks House Association, wrote in an email that Sun was also dedicated to mentoring with PBHA and had spent this past J-term tutoring children with the South Boston School program.