Students Struggle Amidst UNC Mental Health Crisis 

Are Schools Doing Enough?

Content warning: suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

In the middle of October, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill canceled classes to provide a mental health day to a struggling campus population. 

In a statement on October 10th, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz wrote, “We are in the middle of a mental health crisis, both on our campus and across the nation, and we are aware that college-aged students carry an increased risk of suicide”. 

This statement came following a tragic weekend on UNC’s campus. The police department’s crime log notes the death of a student living on campus on Saturday, October 9th. By early that Sunday, another student had attempted suicide. 

Photo Credit: The News & Observer

As the spotlight is aimed at UNC’s mental health response, the gap between what students need and what the university provides has become apparent. According to a report by WRAL, “students at UNC-Chapel Hill have said issues exacerbating mental health have been mounting this year.” The stressors of the pandemic in conjunction with the pressure of college create an untenable situation for a population that is already predisposed to anxiety disorders and major depression, says Dr. James Rachal, chairman of the department of psychiatry & psychiatrist at Charlotte-based Atrium Health Behavioral Health Services.

While students have access to resources such as UNC Counseling and Psychological Services (frequently referred to as CAPS), many online report difficulty dealing with CAPS and getting the help they need.

Other campus resources, such as Healthy Heels, stress talking about feelings of grief or overwhelm with peers, while providing lists of organizations and other resources available for students. In an Instagram post welcoming students back from fall break, Healthy Heels acknowledges the difficulties of the year: 

Photo Credit: UNC Healthy Heels

As UNC and other universities throughout the country tackle systemic mental health issues on their campuses, know that help is available for you or someone you love:

Call 911 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger or go to the nearest emergency room.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En español 1-888-628-9454

Use Lifeline Chat on the web

The Lifeline is a free, confidential crisis service that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Lifeline connects people to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.

Crisis Text Line

Text “HELLO” to 741741

The Crisis Text hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the U.S. The Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, connecting them with a crisis counselor who can provide support and information.