ABC News on Campus bureau chief Maxine Park reports:
Police tape blocked off part of Arizona State University’s Tempe campus on Monday after a male graduate student committed suicide in his professor’s office.
Officials said David Solnick, 59, a student in the graphic design program, pulled out a handgun and shot himself while talking with his professor. The incident happened at around 11:40 a.m. in the College of Design building, in his professor’s office.
“We sent paramedics and police over here and found the student deceased,” said ASU police commander Jim Hardina.
The building remained on lockdown for the rest of the day and classes were cancelled. Matthew Eidenbock, an undergraduate film and media production major, heard the gunshot.
“It was just a really loud noise and I thought someone dropped something or that it was a car accident,” Eidenbock said.
Philip White, an assistant professor at the design school, did not teach Solnick but said that he knew him through the department.
“He was a good student and I know that he was finishing up his thesis and doing research on South African stamps,” White said. “It’s a terrible tragedy.”
According to the Arizona Suicide Prevention Coalition, an average of 800 people die from suicide each year in the state. The World Health Organization reports that over one million people commit suicide every year.
Nikki Kontz, board president of the Arizona Suicide Prevention Coalition, said that any problem left unresolved is a risk factor for suicide.
“It's not just college life but even looking at the economy and everything going on in the nation right now,” Kontz said. “It's just a stressful time in general and unfortunately not everyone knows that there are places they can go for help and people they can talk to about it.”
The university released a statement saying that it was deeply saddened by the incident and is now focusing on providing counseling for students and staff.
Design major Kim Pomper, an undergrad, said she was in the building just 10 minutes before the incident occurred.
“It’s still surprising to hear because you never expect it to happen on your own campus," Pomper said.
Kontz said the focus now shifts to the people who are left behind.
“It’s very sad because there’s going to be so many people hurt and left dealing with a lot of questions as to why this happened,” Kontz said. “There are hotlines that family and friends can call to get support from other people who are the ones left surviving.”
Kontz said the most important thing to remember is that there is no typical suicide victim. But there are specific warning signs that people should look for.
“If there are drastic changes in behavior including eating, sleeping or withdrawing from others, then it’s cause for concern,” Kontz said. “A lot of times college students aren’t aware of the resources that are available to them. There’s always someone available to listen.”
ASU officials said the incident was still under investigation.
Troubled college and graduate students can call the National Graduate Student Crisis Line at 1-877-472-3457.