Chapel Hill, NC – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has canceled classes on Tuesday after UNC Police investigated two suicides over the weekend. Instead of the class on Tuesday, students will have a “wellness day,” according to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.
The UNC police crime log showed investigators received a call for suicide attempts in Granville Towers South around 3 a.m. Sunday. The Police Department’s crime log reported the death of a student who lived in Hinton James Residence Hall on Saturday morning.
Guskiewicz urged students in a letter Sunday night to “rest and check in with each other” on wellness day.
“We are in the midst of a mental health crisis, both on our campus and across the country, and we are aware that older students have an increased risk of suicide,” Guskiewicz said.
The National Institute of Mental Health says suicide is the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 34. Suicide has risen since pandemic locks were introduced, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Before Guskiewicz published his announcement on Sunday, which is also World Mental Health Day, students urged university leaders to address their concerns about mental health.
As of Tuesday, the university’s counseling and psychological services, department of psychiatry, medical school and social work would be available to students, faculty and staff in various areas of campus during the week, Guskiewicz said.
“We live in a world that is constantly changing and changing,” Guskiewicz said. “We face major challenges, and the ongoing toll that this imposes on our health cannot be underestimated. This cannot be solved by one person in one day, alone.”
Students at UNC-Chapel Hill have said that problems that worsen mental health have been on the rise this year. They struggle with their academics — and COVID-19 plays a big role.
“It has been really crazy to be back [and] have to return after being virtual, “said Ishan Thake, senior at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Thaker said his final year at UNC-Chapel Hill has had its share of challenges, and reports of students trying to take their own lives are making it harder to concentrate.
“It’s awful. We’re expected to return to campus tomorrow and just continue our classes as if nothing is happening,” he told WRAL News before the university announced its announcement.
Campus efforts to meet students’ mental needs may be stronger, he said.
“The university definitely needs to do something about this, and there is simply nothing in place right now to ensure student safety and well-being,” Thaker said.
Some UNC-Chapel Hill students said they are planning a protest for Wednesday in hopes that the university will do a better job of having difficult discussions on the matter and providing more adequate mental health resources
The university will also hold a mental health summit later this month, according to Guskiewicz, for faculty, staff and study leaders to address the mental health crisis.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.