RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A student task force at NC State University is revealing growing mental health concerns on Wednesday. A new report outlines how tough college has been for students.
The numbers show 34% of students surveyed were dealing with some form of depression, and 12% percent had suicidal thoughts. The numbers are pre-pandemic, but they are a snapshot of the mental health concerns facing students right now. This school year alone, five students died by suicide.
"It's just hard," said senior Mahkyla Hart. She's a student-athlete and said she feels the pressure. Hart shared that she is currently being treated for depression. "It was hard to reach out for that help. After a while, my friends were there for me, and I did get help. At the same time, I still battle and I'm still receiving help.'
Hart, a member of the track and field team, was surrounded by her teammates Tuesday night. Jakerra Covington and Sydney Freeman are sophomores and echoed Hart's concerns.
"Mental health is real, and I didn't know that until I got to college. I was like there's no way I'm going to go through that, but there are times when I don't tell my friends, and I feel so stressed out, and all I can do is cry," Covington said.
The student mental health task force has been working since November to find solutions to what is a growing crisis at NC State. The task force, which includes students and faculty provided long-term and short-term recommendations that center around three themes: culture of care, resources, and policies.
Some of those recommendations are already in progress, such as embedding clinicians across campus and scheduling wellness days each semester. But some students said a day isn't enough.
"If we're going to have a wellness day, it should be used as straight wellness," Hart said.
"I had an assignment due on Monday of this week. I was so worried about it last Thursday. So, a mental wellness day is not enough," Freeman said.
Moving forward, the task force has recommended implementing a peer mentoring support program, adding additional interventions and opportunities that promote a sense of belonging, connection, and community. They also suggested examining academic expectations and implementing a universal screening for mental health for students.
Therapist and clinical director Dr. Sophia Caudle with Bull City Psychotherapy said students need much more.
"In my mind, every student at NC State should be put on an intervention plan, meaning that they have all been affected, everyone has been affected by this in some way. Anxiety is sky-high. And stress is just enormous for all of these kids."
Caudle is an N.C. State alumnus and a Wolfpack parent, so her concerns run deep.
"We can't just say, you know, hey, I'm here, come and help me if you need help. That's not typically how these things improve or get better," Caudle said. "Some people are going to come and get help. And that's great. So, we still need to offer help. I think the university again, needs to get into student housing and find the students who really need the help who are not asking for help."
Hart, Freeman, and Covington are leaning on each other. They also found support from their athletic advisor.
NC State has brought on more help in the counseling center and there are now more than 45 clinical positions.