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Medical examiner confirms September suicide at Penn is the Ivy’s sixth in 1.5 years

The Philadelphia medical examiner has ruled that the death of a Penn student in September was a suicide, making it the Ivy League school’s sixth since August 2013.

Penn sophomore Amanda Hu, 20, died Sept. 28, but officials at the time didn’t know the cause. Office of the Medical Examiner spokesman Jeff Moran told Billy Penn Wednesday that Hu’s death was officially ruled a suicide; the manner of death was drug intoxication. No further details on what those drugs were could be released.

Things were more unclear immediately after Hu was found dead in her room: Signs including depression pills and notes to family pointed to suicide, but hours later, The Inquirer reported that a homicide unit was on-scene investigating. Hu was, according to the Inquirer, bleeding from her mouth and hand, and hair was found in her hand. Roommates had also reported that they heard banging and yelling at her door from someone they said was her boyfriend.

The medical examiner’s final determination means six students out of 21,000 have committed suicide at Penn in the last year-and-a-half. That rate is five times the national average — the Suicide Prevention Resource Center reports the suicide rate for college students in general is 6.5 to 7.5 suicides per 100,000 students.

After the suicides garnered national attention last spring, outcry against Penn started as students complained of a culture of perfectionism and a place where mental health services were understaffed and came second to the world-class academics.

In response, Penn announced a year ago that it had formed the Task Force on Student Psychological Health and Welfare, saying the group would “make recommendations related to programs, policies, and practices designed to improve the quality and safety of student life.” That 10-person task force released its final report earlier this week, which was eight pages long and included recommendations like create a new website and make it easier for students to go on leave.

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