The Yale campus was thrown into mourning and grief last week after two students — Hale Ross ’18 and Rae Na Lee ’19 — died within six days of one another.
Both Ross and Lee were members of Calhoun College, though Lee was not currently enrolled at the University.
Ross, whose passing was announced in an Oct. 31 email to the Yale community, was a distance and middle-distance runner on the Yale men’s cross country and track and field teams. Lee, who passed away Friday morning, was a member of the Yale women’s fencing team.
Following both deaths, heads of college and various student groups reached out to members of their respective communities to organize gatherings of support. A vigil for Ross was held last Tuesday, and students were invited to Calhoun Head of College Julia Adams’ house Sunday evening to write notes of condolence to Lee’s family.
But in the wake of these twin tragedies, students interviewed said they have been heartened to see the University community come together in solidarity.
“After the tragedies that occurred last week, a somber tone clouded the Yale environment,” Jorge Anaya ’19 said. “Despite this, it has become quite evident how strong and united the Yale community really is.”
Caroline Lynch ’17, former co-president of the Yale Student Athlete College Council, said the student-athlete community has been hit hard by the two deaths, particularly the teams to which Ross and Lee belonged. She added that their death have served as a reminder to band together as a community, and consistently check in with one another.
All teams will keep Ross and Lee in their thoughts as they represent Yale this year, “on and off the court,” she said.
“In tough times like this, we must remember to lean on each other within the student-athlete community for support,” Lynch said. “At the end of the day, we are all here to help and support each other as we are all one big family — the Yale athletics family — within the larger Yale community.”
For some, last week’s deaths and subsequent grief provoked thoughts and conversations about mental health resources at Yale.
In an email to the News, Paul Genecin, director of Yale Health, stressed that for any Yale student who may be struggling with feelings of isolation and despair, there is “effective and readily accessible” help through Mental Health and Counseling, Walden Peer Counseling and the Yale Chaplain’s Office. He added that MH&C has clinicians available around the clock.
However, Zulfiqar Mannan ’20, a student in Calhoun, said seeking help for mental health issues is more complicated than it may seem.
“Yale, like all institutions, puts a lot of worth on productivity on a daily basis, something that often works against seeking that sort of help,” Mannan said. “Personally, I do feel there is an unspoken culture of mental health patients becoming projects or cases that need to be solved, and I’m not well-researched on this topic to fully suggest, but there is a mandatory need for mental health reform here.”
Mannan said that on Nov. 2, he called MH&C for an appointment and was offered one for Nov. 9, adding that an eight-day delay is “a lot when it comes to inexplicable, difficult-to-diagnose ailments like mental health issues.”
As Yale community members process Ross and Lee’s deaths in various ways, messages of support have flooded campus. Many have expressed hope that the community will recover from the tragedies of the past week, albeit gradually.
In the Chaplain’s Office’s weekly newsletter, University Chaplain Sharon Kugler highlighted the importance of looking to one another for solace amid grief.
“In the midst of a difficult time on campus and in the world right now our only task is to be loving, loving toward ourselves and with others, to hold one another close and to simply breathe in and out, in this place, with this gentle community,” Kruger wrote. “We do not need to move forward, we need only to look side to side with kindness and compassion. In doing this we can return to wholeness.”
Lynch echoed Kugler’s sentiment, emphasizing the importance of reducing the stigma around conversations about stress. Anaya said that despite busy routines, students should continue to look out for one another, adding that it is “important to celebrate life while remembering those who are no longer here to enjoy it with us.”
In his email, Genecin said it is helpful for students to proceed with their normal college activities, sports and friendships while grieving, and to “take comfort from being together.”
“People may second-guess themselves and wonder what they could or should have done to avert a tragedy. Sadly, some outcomes are outside of the power of fellow students to prevent,” Genecin said. “I am confident that this realization, together with the support of friends and loved ones, will give our students the strength to deal with their sorrow and to move forward individually and as a community.”