Sep. 16, 2014

Staying strong: supporting our community after the death of Peter Godshall

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August 28, 2014

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The College of William and Mary lost one of its own, Peter Godshall ’15, in an apparent suicide Aug. 25. His passing shook the College community — both the wider undergraduate student body and the individuals who knew him.

Since his death, the community has demonstrated its enormous strength and love. The phrase “One Tribe, One Family” has rarely been more applicable, and students, alumni, faculty and others have expressed their support with this unifying phrase. Going forward, members of our community should remain vigilant and continue supporting one another through this tragedy.

While Peter’s passing has affected everyone on campus, it is deeply saddening that new students joined our community amid such tragedy. We hope that they know we are here for them — in moments like these, it is imperative for everyone to know that they have a support system.

Student groups and individuals across campus have worked to support those most affected by Peter’s death by supporting his friends and the members of organizations he was involved in. The College administration is also offering counseling services to aid those impacted by this tragedy.

As students regain their sense of normalcy in the coming weeks, they can continue to depend on the Tribe’s strong support system.

By helping each other through this tragedy, we can provide the strength for others to lean on, specifically those who are most affected by Peter’s death. Maintaining this strength requires vigilance and attentiveness. Observe those around you; the College community reverberates with grief. Even if you have not been affected by this tragedy, you likely know someone who has. Give them your time. Even if you don’t know anyone who was affected, be sensitive to others’ silent suffering.

Reach out to your friends. Awareness of their suffering is necessary but insufficient. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 24; there’s a good chance that a suicide has impacted someone you care about. For them, suicide can be a sensitive topic and similar tragedies can remind them of past losses. Regardless of how your friends may be suffering, listen to them — whether or not they choose to speak, your presence is immeasurably important.

Individually, students need to do whatever it takes to keep themselves healthy. It is easy to let one’s mental and emotional health fall by the wayside during tragedy. Do not be afraid to go to the counseling center. Admission of help is not shameful; rather, it is a show of strength.

As College President Taylor Reveley said during Convocation Wednesday, once you join the Tribe, you are always a part of it. We have lost one of our own, and the support we offer one another as we begin to move forward must endure.

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