The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the flagship state university in the Tar Heel State, canceled classes on October 12 for a “wellness day” after two student suicides and two other students attempted suicide since September 1.
Inside Higher Ed quoted university chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, who told students in a message, “We are in the middle of a mental health crisis, both on our campus and across our nation, and we are aware that college-aged students carry an increased risk of suicide.” He said, “This crisis has directly impacted members of our community — especially with the passing of two students on campus in the past month. As chancellor, a professor and a parent, my heart breaks for all those whose suffering goes unnoticed.”
He told the community that the university will host a mental health summit with faculty, staff and student leaders and launch a Heels Care Network. The network aimed to be a campus-wide campaign to promote and support mental health awareness.
Guskiewicz made the announcement after college leaders among the undergraduate, graduate and professional student governments called for a pause in classes that week. Part of their statement read, “Students require this immediate action from the university to ensure that their mental health needs are being considered and met.”
“Tuesday, October 12, which was World Mental Health Day,” should be a day for students “to rest and to check in with each other,” as Guskiewicz said.
The student newspaper, The Daily Tar Hell, announced it would reduce its work hours during the week to help its student staff “time to rest and to prioritize their mental health.”
The university also hosted virtual and in-person spaces for people to talk to professionals through their Counseling and Psychological Services, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine and School of Social Work.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), college-aged people in the United States suffered from the mental health tolls of the coronavirus pandemic. In June 2020, one in four people in the 18-24 age range seriously contemplated suicide.
Research, in the form of studies or polls, have shown that the pandemic not only caused economic struggles and uncertainty, but have negatively affected peoples’ physical and mental wellbeing.