UPDATE: University shaken by three student deaths

In the first three weeks of Nov., three UVM students died suddenly, sending the university community into an emotional whirlwind.The first two students, Katherine “Katie” Bichsel and Charles “Ryan” Frazier, took their own lives, according to their families. The third, Dustin Lussier, died of complications from cystic fibrosis on Nov. 18, Thomas J. Gustafson, vice president for student and campus life said via e-mail to the entire student body.”It’s surprising and very sad,” sophomore Alex Pelkowski said. “I’m kind of shocked.”The University is familiar with death, Annie Stevens, assistant vice president for student and campus life said. But the University has never experienced so many deaths in such a short period of time.In a move that some University members are questioning, UVM officials decided to announce the deaths to the entire University community via e-mail without including the cause of death.”They didn’t really tell us much,” sophomore Eric Vecchio said. “It leaves room for rumors.””Any time a student passes away, our first thoughts go to the family and the friends and faculty closest to the student,” Stevens said.”It is often good for the community to know,” she said. “But we do so in respect to the families’ wishes.”Bichsel killed herself on Nov. 6 in her apartment on College Street, her mother Vivian Bichsel said. Bichsel’s death is being investigated by Burlington Police and no foul play is suspected, Detective Paul Petralia of Burlington Police said.On Nov. 13, Frazier, a business administration major purchased a handgun at Dattilio’s Gun & Tackle on Shelburne Road in South Burlington, drove to Charlotte and killed himself in his car, his wife Emily Frazier said.Both Bichsel and Frazier were battling with and being treated for depression, their families said.The University, Vermont State Police and Burlington Police said that there is no relation between the two deaths.The student body as a whole first heard of the students’ deaths after receiving e-mails from Gustafson.Notification about Bichsel’s death went out on Nov. 10, four days after her death. The e-mail about Frazier’s death went out on Nov. 17, four days after his death.A further e-mail about Lussier’s death was sent out on Nov. 20, two days after his death.In the e-mail, Gustafson said Lussier was a sophomore business administration major with minors in sociology and economics.Lussier’s family could not be reached for comment.Dr. Todd Weinman, director of the University counseling center said that the UVM counseling center has seen an increase in visits, as is expected in the aftermath of these types of situations.”A lot of the healing comes from community members supporting each other,” Weinman said. “What I’ve seen is an extraordinary amount of people looking out for each other and bonding together.”Weinman said the UVM counseling center has walk-in counseling available, although they do prefer a call ahead.There is also a counselor on call 24 hours a day through UVM Police Services, he said.Stevens also said that the University has good relationships with Fletcher Allen Hospital and their mobile crisis unit, as well as UVM rescue.The University, family and friends of the deceased have all said that the students will be greatly missed.It’s an important time to take care of each other, Stevens said.”Once you were Katie’s friend, you were always Katie’s friend,” Vivian Bichsel said. “She was really kind, she was there for a lot of her friends even though she had deep needs herself.””Ryan was incredibly generous,” Emily Frazier said. “He was such a hard worker, so loving, so successful and the best daddy ever.”