UNC Chapel Hill Cancels Class amid 2 Suicide Investigations: 'A Mental Health Crisis'

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UNC Chapel Hill
UNC Chapel Hill

Getty University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were canceled on Tuesday so students can focus on their mental health.

The decision to make Tuesday a "Wellness Day" was made as school authorities conduct two suicide investigations, according to NBC News and local station WRAL.

Authorities reported an apparent suicide at Hinton James Residence Hall on Saturday, according to campus police crime logs. An attempted suicide was also reported at another residence hall early Sunday morning. The status for each case is listed as open.

"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," Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz wrote in a letter to the school community on Sunday, which coincided with World Mental Health Day.

"This crisis has directly impacted members of our community — especially with the passing of two students on campus in the past month," he wrote. "After meeting with student and faculty leaders over the weekend, I am announcing a Wellness Day for our students on Tuesday, Oct. 12, as a step in addressing mental health."

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In lieu of classes, Guskiewicz encouraged students "to use this time to rest and check in with each other during the day."

"Reach out to a friend, a classmate, or colleague and ask them, 'honestly, how are you doing?' " he added.

Counseling will be available for all students, faculty and staff, and a mental health summit will be held later this month, he announced. Additionally, the school will soon launch a campus-wide campaign to "promote and support mental health awareness."

"We are living in a world that is constantly shifting and changing. We are facing major challenges and the ongoing toll this takes on our health cannot be underestimated. This cannot be solved by one person, or on one day, alone," Guskiewicz continued. "The most important thing we can do is to care for each other, and I hope you continue to do this on Tuesday and for the rest of this year and beyond."

However, some students are unsatisfied with the school's response.

"It's horrible," senior Ishan Thaker told WRAL. "We're expected to go back to campus tomorrow and just continue our classes as if nothing is happening."

"Tuesday is University Day so a number of classes were already cancelled beforehand," junior Kendra Randle said, according to NBC News. "They chose the easiest solution."

Clare Landis, who works for student-run mental health group Peer2Peer, told WRAL that there has been an increase in calls over the last two weeks.

"It's a really stressful time for students going through midterms and seniors trying to find jobs and freshmen trying to get adjusted," she said. "It's a lot for everyone right now."

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A group of students are planning a protest for Wednesday, while some parents will hold a rally on campus later this week, per WRAL.

The Daily Tar Heel, the school newspaper, has announced that they "will be operating on a reduced schedule this week to allow our staff time to rest and to prioritize their mental health."

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a serious toll on the mental health struggles of young adults. A study conducted in 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in four adults between the ages of 18-24 reported having "seriously considered suicide" due to the pandemic.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.