UNC Chapel Hill cancels classes amid 2 suicide investigations




  • In Health
  • 2021-10-11 20:12:00Z
  • By NBC News
 

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has canceled classes on Tuesday and given students a "wellness day" while campus authorities investigate two possible suicides over the weekend.

The decision came after a student was found dead in a residence hall Saturday morning and police received a call for an attempted suicide early Sunday, according to campus police crime logs reviewed by NBC affiliate WRAL of Raleigh.

"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," Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz wrote to students in a letter Sunday evening.

The school is encouraging students to use Tuesday to check in with each other and rest. The university also said it is setting up a "special support network" this week to help students connect to resources and process what has been happening.

The letter from Guskiewicz, which was sent on World Mental Health Day, announced the launch of a "Heels Care Network, a campus-wide campaign to promote and support mental health awareness."

Clare Landis, who works for the student-led mental health resource Peer2Peer, said the service has seen an increase in calls.

"We almost have a second pandemic on our hands with mental health and suicide," Landis told WRAL.

The school's student-run newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, said Sunday that the paper will be operating on a "reduced schedule...to allow our staff time to rest and to prioritize their mental health."

Savannah Shoemake, a senior, described a "stress culture" at the university that encourages students to "push themselves to the point of having a break down."

"It is fairly common to see students crying around campus, in the libraries, on the way to class, in the dining hall," Shoemake, 21, said in a message. "There's a prominent sense of grief right now...it's become evident to me that a majority of my peers are struggling right now."

Some students think the university isn't doing enough.

"Our hearts are shattered," said Kendra Randle, a junior, who believes the school took too long to respond to the deaths.

"Tuesday is University Day so a number of classes were already cancelled beforehand," Randle, 20, said. "They chose the easiest solution. What message are you sending to students by refusing to cancel class on Monday?

"After we spend time mourning, we need to figure out solutions to this darkness that is plaguing our university," she said.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach a trained counselor at the Crisis Text Line. You can also visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional support networks.

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