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.