On Tuesday, Oct. 12, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill canceled classes due to recent reports of suicide and attempted suicide over the weekend. Students were encouraged to use Tuesday as a wellness day where they could prioritize their mental health and check in with their peers. According to Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz, “We are in the middle of a mental health crisis…my heart breaks for all those whose suffering goes unnoticed.”
The decision for a wellness day came after several incidents occurred at North Carolina’s public university. Over the weekend, the university police responded to a death at the Hinton James Residence Hall where the incident was declared a suicide. The following day, police investigated another incident at a different residence hall. The police department crime log described the scene as an attempted suicide.
A month prior to the October suicides, the UNC Police Department responded to an incident at the Forest Theater; unfortunately, the student was found dead due to suicide. All these recent events prompted student leaders to ask for a rest day in an effort to prioritize mental health. UNC Graduate and Professional Student Government stated, “Students require this immediate action from the university to ensure that their mental health needs are being considered and met.” For the Tar Heel community, a loss of even one Tar Heel was one too many.
Thus, the university established a wellness day that occurred from the morning of Monday, Oct. 11, and would last until the end of Tuesday, Oct. 12. The university released a joint statement as a call for the pause of instruction. The student-run newspaper shared the statement and suggested a reduced schedule for the week. In addition, students planned to host a protest on Wednesday and parents offered to rally on Thursday in order to bring awareness about the issues of suicide.
When the rest day was established, students from a campus support group shared how there was an increase in calls due to midterms approaching. Some even described this crisis as a “second pandemic” which dealt with mental health and suicide. The Chancellor met with several faculty and students and felt that a wellness day was needed to address mental health. With the rest day, the Chancellor urged students to “reach out to a friend, a classmate, or a colleague and ask how they are doing.”
Following the mental health day, UNC Chapel Hill plans to offer a special support network where students and faculty can find resources to discuss their experiences with mental health. There are also plans for a mental health summit titled “Heels Care Network” to promote awareness of the issue.
“At Carolina, we strive to put our students first in everything we do. We are living in a world that is constantly shifting and changing. This cannot be solved by one person alone,” wrote Guskiewicz. UNC Chapel Hill shares their deepest condolences to the lives that were lost due to suicide.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).