Down on the left sidebar you’ll see a little gizmo for SiteMeter, a service that measures one’s blog traffic and gives all sorts of tidbits about how readers got to the blog and a very general idea of where they are coming from. Most bloggers pay attention to the numbers of visitors but I have always been more interested in how readers get here and what posts they are reading.
One value of SiteMeter is to keep tabs on search terms that bring people here to learn of breaking stories. So, when I saw a bunch of hits starting yesterday with search terms like “hydrogen sulfide,” I feared the worst: that another young person had committed suicide by mixing household chemicals to release the toxic and potentially fatal gas and search engines were driving traffic to one of my earlier hydrogen sulfide posts.
Indeed, this story is more heartbreaking than usual (not that any suicide isn’t) because it was a highly-promising young man who was an academic standout in the sciences and a musician:
Gregory Willoughby was an academic standout at Warren Central before he began his study at IU. This community as well as the Bloomington campus is shocked to hear of his death as police continue to search for answers.
A junior at Indiana University, Gregory Willoughby was an accomplished academic and musician. A biochemistry major with minors in mathematics and psychology, Willoughby was a chemistry tutor who played the cello. [According to the IU student newspaper, Willoughby was co-principal chair in the All-Campus Orchestra in spring 2008.]
In 2007 he was named a Wells Scholar, one of the most competitive and prestigious awards offered at an American university.
The young man was found in his closet with a bucket of liquid, a sign on the door reading, “Warning H2S,” a common feature of recent cases of suicide by this method. As in this other case we wrote about, the victims seem to care more about the safety and welfare of others than that of themselves.
The account from the Indiana Daily Student leads me to believe that Mr. Willoughby lacked a support network. The medical examiner estimates that young man was dead for seven to ten days. Caitlin Johnston writes that few people in the Willkie dormitory actually know one another and it is described as “a closed off community for independent people.” So even if Willoughby had been experiencing suicidal thoughts that might have been evident in his behavior or language, it doesn’t seem that anyone would have known.
However, he is reported to have been a research assistant in the Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Beyond no one there recognizing any warning signs, I’m surprised that his absence was not noted by anyone in the laboratory. Or by any of his professors in class.
But then again, suicidal signs are not always evident. Early in my career, a top student in my pharmacology class committed suicide with sedatives over a weekend. She had sat in the front row, right in front of the lectern, and her best friend said she had been to the opera with her the very night she overdosed without any indication that she was distraught.
I have yet to find any comments in any news stories to date that come from any friends or family. [Since writing this, a great many friends, family, lab co-workers, and fellow students have come forward to comment below and in subsequent coverage by the Indiana Daily Student. According to commenters below, reporters (with the exception of Caitlin Johnston at the student paper) were less than sensitive in seeking background information.]
This case makes me very, very sad.
Addendum April 15th: You will see in the comments below the outpouring of love for Gregory from people who knew him. One noted specifically that they chose not to respond to interview requests. I am grateful to those of you who have taken the time to express your sentiments and share your stories. You have my personal condolences on the tragic loss of this fine young man who you know and love.