A view of Princeton’s campus in the snow.
Princeton University, Office of Communications, Adriana De Cervantes (2023)
Princeton leaders remind University community to lean on counseling services, friends, support systems

Editor’s note: This article was updated on April 15 when the Middlesex County Medical Examiner's Office released Li's autopsy report. If you or someone you know may have suicidal thoughts, you can call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or chat online at 988lifeline.org.

The freshman who was struck and killed by the Dinky train on Feb. 16 is the son of Yiyun Li, according to a statement from the University. She joined the Princeton faculty in 2017 and is currently director of the Program in Creative Writing.

James Li ’27 was a Princeton High School graduate. His father is Dapeng Li, the statement said.

New Jersey Transit is investigating. It was later determined by the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office that Li died by suicide.

A lauded writer and novelist, Yiyun Li has written about her journey through depression and grief after her older son, Vincent Li, died by suicide when he was struck by a train in 2017. In 2022, The New York Times wrote that Yiyun Li had become “something of a beacon to those suffering beneath unbearable weight.”

James Li is the second freshman to die this academic year; Sophia Jones ’27 died by suicide on Nov. 29. Seven Princeton students have died from various causes since May 2022.

The University statement listed resources that can help students right now, offered through Counseling and Psychological Services, the Office of Religious Life, the residential colleges, and the Graduate College. In an interview with PAW, CPS director Calvin Chin said: “I think for everyone in the University community, it’s really important right now to focus on whatever you can to take care of yourself. 

“For some people it might mean reaching out to others for support. For other people it might mean distraction. For others it might mean journaling. And for still others it might mean reaching out to a professional counselor,” Chin said. “Really any means toward giving yourself some sense of peace and relief during this challenging time is absolutely appropriate and the right way to go.”

He also urged people to reach out to each other, both to get support and to offer it to others. “One thing that can be helpful when a tragedy like this happens is to just lean into the emotional support that you can get from other members of the community,” Chin said. “Finding ways to reach out to people who you either are concerned about or who you feel could benefit from a supportive talk or a supportive meeting is always a good thing.”

Students who want to talk to a professional counselor can walk into the McCosh Health Center from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, or they can call the CPS Cares Line around the clock at 609-258-3141. Faculty and staff can use Carebridge around the clock.

Chin said residential colleges and other groups on campus are planning events for people to gather and support each other, so students should watch for those announcements in their email over the coming days.

Right now, he said, “honor what it is that you need to take care of yourself, and reach out for help and resources when you need it.”