by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Natalia Mayorga writes for the Martin Center about mental health issues at the University of North Carolina’s flagship campus.
It has been two months since the start of the Fall semester at UNC-Chapel Hill. In those two months, four students have died by suicide on campus.
In response to the tragic events, UNC Chancellor Guskiewicz announced a Wellness Day for students on “Tuesday, Oct. 12, as a step in addressing mental health.” October 12 was University Day and classes had already been canceled from 1:45-3:30 PM. He went on to say that they would be launching the “Heels Care Network, a campus-wide campaign to promote and support mental health awareness” and UNC will be holding a “Mental Health Summit” on November 15.
This is not the first time UNC-Chapel Hill has attempted to address student mental health in recent years. A few months after a student suicide in late 2017, UNC announced the establishment of a “Mental Health Task Force.” The university system has also become involved in this issue. In May of this year, the UNC Board of Governors released a report calling to improve mental health resources.
However, despite UNC’s multiple efforts, student mental health seems to have worsened. And it seems that the number of suicides on campus has increased, though it’s hard to know for certain because of a lack of data. UNC-Chapel Hill reportedly does not track the number of suicides that take place on campus. According to Media Hub at UNC, the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) only tracks the suicides of students who use its services, not those of the overall student body. (As of 2018, UNC-Charlotte was the only public university in the state that tracks student suicides—it’s not clear if that’s changed since then.)
Among the different mental health resources that UNC offers, CAPS is the main provider of direct counseling to students. But students have had a number of issues with the services. After the recent suicides on campus, for example, CAPS has been overbooked and students struggle to get an appointment.