Fri, Jan 29, 2010
The Straits Times
2 NTU students die in fortnight

By Mavis Toh

TWO women undergraduates from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) are believed to have killed themselves within a fortnight of each other.

Both were found lying motionless at the foot of Housing Board blocks - one in Ang Mo Kio and the other in Toh Guan Road.

Miss Cheryl Tan Qiwei, 22, was a fourth-year student majoring in Chinese and communication studies, while Miss Gan Junru, 21, was a civil engineering student.

The Straits Times understands that Miss Tan had told her parents she was feeling depressed on Jan 11. She was found dead at the foot of Block 431, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 later that day.

Interviewed yesterday, 15 days after her death, her mother, a housewife who did not want to be named, would only say that her daughter was a good student and it was unlikely she had been stressed about school.

She declined to say more.

NTU's dean of students, Associate Professor Lok Tat Seng, confirmed that Miss Tan was doing 'very well academically'.

The funeral for Miss Gan, found dead at the foot of Block 267, Toh Guan Road on Jan 23, was on Monday.

It has come to light that she had applied for and obtained an academic year's leave of absence last year, just three months after starting on her civil engineering programme.

Her family has declined to speak to reporters or say why she had asked for a year's break; her friends do not know the reason and NTU has declined to give it.

Her friends said she joined NTU after graduating from Ngee Ann Polytechnic. They described her as soft-spoken and sporting enough to have taken part in her hostel's beauty pageant last year.

Her hostel-mate Tan Yan Jun said she moved out of the hostel last November, before taking the exams, to start her one-year break from school.

The two fatalities come nearly a year after NTU made the news with its student David Widjaja stabbing a professor and then falling to his death on campus.

Within a week of that drama, a project officer from the university was found hanging in the balcony of his on-campus apartment.

Prof Lok said NTU's counsellors from its Student Counselling Centre are on the lookout for friends of Miss Tan and Miss Gan who may need counselling support. He added that lecturers have also been looking out for students who may have been affected by the deaths.

He noted that professors and managers who deal with students go through a basic counselling course, and workshops on health and wellness are held regularly.

'The emotional well-being of students is important to us,' he said, urging those who need a listening ear and support to seek help.

Samaritans of Singapore (SOS): 1800-2214444
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-2837019
Sage Counselling Centre: 1800-5555555
Care Corner Mandarin Counselling: 1800-3535800

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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