The decision came after a difficult weekend at North Carolina’s flagship public university. At about 11 a.m. Saturday, police were called to investigate a death at the Hinton James Residence Hall, the school’s media relations team said. The incident is being investigated as a suicide, according to a police department crime log.
Then, around 3:30 a.m. Sunday, police responded to another residence hall, Granville Towers South, to investigate what the log described as an attempted suicide.
“Students require this immediate action from the university to ensure that their mental health needs are being considered and met,” the UNC Graduate and Professional Student Government said in a joint statement with the UNC Student Government Executive Branch. They added, “A loss of even one Tar Heel is too many.”
Clare Landis, a responder for student support group Peer2Peer, told the station she had seen an uptick in calls during the past two weeks, as midterms approach.
“We almost have a second pandemic on our hands with mental health and suicide,” she told WRAL.
Guskiewicz said in his letter that he met with student and faculty leaders over the weekend and decided that a wellness day would be “a step in addressing mental health.” He urged students to take the time to rest and check on each other.
“Reach out to a friend, a classmate, or colleague and ask them, ‘honestly, how are you doing?’ ” he wrote.
Working with counseling services, the psychiatry department, and the schools of medicine and social work, UNC plans to offer a “special support network” through the week, Guskiewicz said. Students, faculty and staff can turn to the network to find resources and discuss their experiences.
The university also plans to convene a mental health summit this month and to start a campaign, the Heels Care Network, to promote awareness of the issue.
“At Carolina, we strive to put our students first in everything we do,” Guskiewicz wrote. “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.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741.