The prestigious Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts on Saturday unveiled a mosaic in honor of a former student, the late John Kamau Muthee.
Kamau was a third-year mechanical engineering student at WPI in the class of 2015, and he died by suicide in September 2013.
The class of 2015 in partnership with The Degenhardt family, donated a mosaic of the WPI seal dedicated in memory of classmate John Kamau Muthee. Also presented was a scholarship established in memory of Patrick Degenhardt, a class of 2017 former student who also passed away. For decades, graduating classes have raised funds for lasting gifts to WPI.
School Librarian, Anna Goldman said that Kamau took part in the school’s program for WPI first-year students called The Great Problem Seminar. Students work in teams to address a global challenge, and Kamau’s project in Clean Water to Prevent Pandemics in Rhumsiki, Cameroon, was one of the projects that have been published by the school and shared with the world.
Speaking to Thuothuo of Jamhuri News, Kamau’s sister, Julie Muthee described him as a smart, caring, goofy, and vibrant young man who loved life. Julie said that Kamau was a social and outgoing person in Kenya, but that drastically changed when he relocated to the US at the age of 20.
”He had tons of friends in Kenya, he’d make friends easily from school and the neighborhood, which is quite contrary to here where all the friends that I knew were only from his study group….or a girlfriend here” Said Julie.
Kamau lived in school, which is in Worcester Massachusetts, but his body was recovered under the golden gate bridge in San Francisco with his car parked at the bridge.
Julie said denials in the family and close friends were to a great extent, which led the family to withhold the cause of death from some of their extended family and the community for fear of being judged.
”People would ask me ‘why did he do it? why didn’t you notice your brother was stressed?’….and I feel like that’s one of the reasons people are afraid to step forward with such information for fear of judgment.”
Julie thanked the community for standing with her family at the time they were grieving and asked people to embrace and continue supporting each other. She also said that it’s encouraging to see people in the community coming together to speak about their pains, adding that it gave her the courage to step forward and admit to herself and to the world that her brother died by suicide.
”It has taken us as a family five years to admit to ourselves and let the world know this, and it’s okay that some families affected by suicide have not accepted it, it’s okay not to accept, it’s okay not to talk about it until you’re ready because we all grieve differently, and people should not be judgemental” she said.
Friends of the Muthee family accompanied John’s sister, Julie Muthee to the unveiling of the mosaic. Tim Ndei commended the school for according John such a great honor. Ruth Mburu, a nurse practitioner, asked the Kenyan community to come together and destigmatize depression, saying it is like any other medical condition.
According to a report released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in more than half of all deaths in 27 states, people who died by suicide had no known mental health condition when they ended their lives.