'This is a crisis.' UNC Chapel Hill launches mental health program to lower suicide rates statewide

Akilah Davis Image
Tuesday, June 13, 2023
UNC Chapel Hill launches mental health program
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Death by suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 18, according to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Ednitta Wright believes she missed the signs. In December 2015, her daughter Asia Bobbitt,18, was wrapping up her freshmen year at Bennett College when she died by suicide.

"If I would have just listened, I would have seen she was battling with something," said Wright. "Asia was beautiful inside and out. She was battling with life becoming an adult. That was probably a little hard for her."

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, suicide rates among Native Americans, African Americans and Hispanics rose between 2018-2021.

Numbers from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services show it's the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 18. It's the third leading cause of death for those ages 19 to 34. Males consistently have higher suicide rates.

"It's about meeting the community where it is and people in the community where they are," said Anita Brown-Graham, coordinator of Carolina Cross 100, a partnership between UNC Chapel Hill and all 100 counties statewide working to address needs.

UNC Chapel Hill is tackling suicide rates statewide, which they believe are at crisis levels. The program is called Our State Our Wellbeing Partnering to Prevent Suicide. It will deploy critical resources to communities on a case-by-case basis. Experts expect to serve 10 to 12 communities starting in August.

Communities can apply here.

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"This is becoming such a crisis. There was no choice but to do this program," said Graham. "So much of this work has to be responsive to what the communities are telling us they need. "

Listening with compassion is what Wright says could have saved her daughter. Today she honors Asia's legacy by holding community events in Raleigh Gardens every year in hopes of saving another family from the heartache she's endured.

"Shine light if there's a dark place," she said.

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