The Middlesex Regional Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled the cause of death of a college student found dead on her New Jersey campus a suicide.
On Wednesday, Dec. 28, an update on the death of Misrach Ewunetie, whose body was found on Princeton University’s grounds on Oct. 20, was released by the Office of the Mercer County Prosecutor.
The death continues the trail of deaths among Blacks in America linked to mental health and overachievement.
In the notice, the county prosecutor shared the results of her autopsy report that ruled her death was a suicide, adding “the cause of her death was determined to be ‘Bupropion, Escitalopram and Hydroxyzine Toxicity,'” a mix of antidepressants and anxiety medications.
The school community joined the family in a massive search to find the 20-year-old after she went missing on Friday, Oct. 14, after last being seen at 3 a.m. on the morning of her disappearance near the Scully Hall dormitory. Her family became concerned after she missed her American citizenship interview the next day.
Her brother, Universe Ewunetie, said the last phone signal he was able to receive from her cellphone was around 3:27 a.m. on Sunday, but then it seemed as if someone turned it off. The brother, determined to find his sister, went to the area with police officers to search for his sister, asking residents if they saw her or her phone, but no one did. He said the local police also enlisted their K-9 unit but to no avail.
“They went twice, once with dogs, and they didn’t get anything,” Universe recalled. “The third time I joined them with my girlfriend, and we were only there for half an hour with the lead detective and two other university officers.”
On Monday, Oct. 17, the family and the school reported the young lady as missing, issuing a “Tiger Alert” to find her. Three days later, she was discovered near the school’s tennis courts.
At the time of her death, her brother talked about his sister’s struggles with finding friends at school and how she had hoped joining clubs like the historic Terrace Club would assist in her gaining fellowship.
However, the autopsy might be a clue to issues, other than loneliness, the young woman might have been dealing with.
Two of the medicines found in her body, bupropion and escitalopram are used, according to the National Library of Medicine, to treat depression. The other drug, hydroxyzine is used by patients suffering in throes of anxiety.
According to national reports and various panel discussions on the topic, depression and anxiety doubled among youth within the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An April study by the National Institutes of Health discovered an increase in death by suicide caused by the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports death by suicide is the third-leading cause of death among young people, adding that youth and young adults account for 14 percent of the nation’s suicides.
Anxiety is considered an excessive form of fear and worry. Depression can negatively impact how a person thinks or feels. Either condition can increase the risk of suicide, studies show. Especially with those dealing with the pressure of succeeding and being the best in whatever they do.
Ewunetie graduated from Villa Angela – St. Joseph High School in Cleveland as valedictorian of the 2020 graduating class and received a full four-year scholarship to the Ivy League institution.
The scholar planned to graduate from Princeton in the spring of 2024 with a major in sociology and a minor in computer science but had recently changed her major. In addition to school, the young woman, who immigrated in 2008 to the U.S. from Ethiopia, was about to start her American citizenship process.
The CDC also reported over the past two decades there has been an uptick in suicide rates among young Black youth and young adults. The National Vital Statistics System report from 2021 stated suicide rate among the U.S. Black population currently peaks between ages 25 and 34.
In 2022 alone, high-profile deaths by suicides within the Black community have made headlines: Ian Alexander Jr., actor Regina King’s 26-year-old only son, “The Walking Dead” actor Moses Moseley, 31, and even the mayor of Hyattsville, Maryland, Kevin Ward, 44.
Two examples that have been plastered all over the news this year are Cheslie Kryst, former Miss USA (2019), and renowned dancer-turned-DJ Stephen “tWitch” Boss.
Both deaths have been correlated to the colloquial term called “high-functioning depression,” a reference to people who suffer from symptoms of depression in silence and by wearing a mask as if nothing is wrong.
Twitch’s recent death had one fan tweet, “High-functioning depression is a real thing, and it can have serious consequences if not addressed and treated,” before offering his condolences to the always smiling and entertaining celebrity.
According to the Washington Post, April Simpkins, Kryst’s mother, said she “was dealing with high-functioning depression which she hid from everyone — including me, her closest confidant — until very shortly before her death.”
Family and friends of Ellen’s most popular DJ said he was in good spirits and was preparing big things for the next year.
Rebecca Brendel, the president of the American Psychiatric Association, offered that while the phrase is not yet a clinical diagnosis, it makes “a really important point that people can be suffering with mental illness and still appear outwardly to be able to function or not appear mentally ill to an outside observer.”
Brendel added, “Saying that somebody is high-functioning even though they have a mental illness in and of itself raises the stigma associated with mental illness.”
Reports say Ewunetie, according to her family, roommate and classmates, seemed to be doing fine, even helping out the night of her death to throw a party at her school. Her brother, when talking about his sister, said she was a “precious, beautiful soul,” a “great listener” and someone who “cares about people beyond her.”
Those who knew her said she is missed and extended their condolences to the family. Rochelle Calhoun, vice president for campus life, said in a statement on behalf of the school, “Our hearts go to Misrach’s family and friends and to the wider campus community that has been shaken by this tragedy.”
“Losing a member of our community is always difficult,” she continued. “The long wait for definitive news about what led to her death has been challenging for all of us, and especially for those close to Misrach.”
The family has not released a statement on the findings.