Head Of UPenn's Mental Health Services Dies By Suicide

When a doctor can't treat themselves.

Who Is Gregory Eells? New Details On The Death Of Head Of Mental Health Services At University Of Pennsylvania By Suicide Facebook

There's an old joke that says that the worst thing you can do is get a haircut from a bald hairstylist. The idea is that if a person can't do their own hair, how can you possibly expect them to do your own? The truth of the matter is that it is very often the people who have spent the most time grappling with personal issues that align with their profession are usually passionate and good at what they do. Who is Gregory Eels? Dr. Eels was a father, an educator, and the head of mental health services at a prominent university. He tragically took his own life this week, and people are still asking why. 


1. RIP Dr. Gregory Eells 

The University of Pennsylvania is reeling after losing one of their own. Dr. Gregory Eells, who was the university's executive director of counseling and psychological services has passed away, and the cause of his death makes his loss even more tragic. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has confirmed to the press that Dr. Eells died by his own hand, another heartbreaking case of suicide. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, he died by jumping out of the window of the apartment where he lived on the 17th floor. The Philadelphia medical examiner's office has already ruled the death a suicide. 


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2. His Time At UPenn

The local news affiliates who are reporting the story from Pennsylvania say that Eells had only taken on his role as head of the counseling services offered by the school in March of this year. Prior to that, Eells had worked for more than 10 years at Cornell University in a role that was aligned with the position he accepted at UPenn. He seemed excited to take on the challenging new role, at least, as excited as a press release issued by his new employer could reveal. The university was obviously thrilled to have him join their ranks, saying that he was a vital addition to the team. 

3. What Made Him Do It?

Currently, no one knows what factors really drove Eells to take his own life, though even if we had more details sussing out something like that isn't easy to do. Depression is one hell of an illness. According to Eells' mom, Jeanette Eells-Rich, it may have been due to the stress of his new job. According to her, he found the role at UPenn significantly more challenging in ways that he didn't expect. He was upset by how much the job kept him from spending time with his wife and their three kids. His mother also said that while he seemed sad in recent months. She said he was “the most smiling, upbeat person I have met in my life.”


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4. Suicide At UPenn

On the surface, UPenn's counseling and psych services are top-notch. Their website describes the department as a place to help “students adjust to university life, manage personal and situational challenges, develop coping strategies, and grow personally and professionally.” While college is always a challenging time, UPenn's statistics when it comes to students and suicide is troubling. Since 2013, there have been at least 14 confirmed deaths by suicide among the students. This is a situation that the school is aware of and has been making moves to change, one of those moves being the hiring of Eells. 

5. Dr. Eells' Credentials 

press release issued by the school reveals that in addition to counseling and managing the department, Eells taught undergraduates and graduate students. The courses he taught including classes on counseling, social psychology and developmental psychology. Eells' credentials are nothing to be sniffed at either. In 2014, he served as the board chair on the Mental Health Section of the American College Health Association. That's not all, either. In 2016, he won a special award, the Association for University and College Counseling Center Director's Award for Excellence in Counseling Center Scholarship. 


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6. Those Left Behind 

Eells, who had his PhD in counseling psychology, an MA in psychology and a BA in psychology and biology, left behind no note, according to a report from the police who responded to the scene of his tragic death. Eells' wife and three children are currently still living in Ithaca, New York, which could underline another contributing factor that caused him to believe that suicide was the only option. Being isolated from his family and starting a new and stressful role couldn't have been easy. Whatever his reasons, Dr. Eells will be missed by many. 

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cats, Batman and Margot. She's an experienced generalist with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, pop culture, and true crime.