As students move in, NC State puts more mental health resources in place after tragic year

Joel Brown Image
Friday, August 18, 2023
As students move in, NCSU puts more mental health resources in place
NC State beefs up available mental health resources after a year that saw 14 student deaths including seven by suicide.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Wolfpack is back at NC State. Students began moving into dorms armed with huge hopes for semester success. At the Campus Health Center, State's top mental health pro was focused on ensuring the school's 36,000 students feel supported and part of the Pack with last year's campus tragedies still top of mind.

"It was a lot. It was a time of grief for our campus," said Dr. Monica Osburn, executive director of NC State's counseling center.

The sheer number last school year was staggering at NC State: 14 student deaths in all; seven students died by suicide.

"It sucked. I won't lie. It was discouraging to see every other week, every other day, someone else had taken their lives," said NC State junior Trey Mumma.

Mumma's marching bandmate Justin Dillon added, "I feel like it's at the point where students are not willing to seek (mental health) help or they feel like there's so many hoops to jump through to get to that help."

University leaders commissioned a special mental health task force last fall, which authored an 89-page report. Members said NC State was "dedicated to improving student mental health"... But "there is not only room for but a need for additional efforts."

NC State's response: 15 new mental health clinicians on campus which brought the total to more than 50; Plus clinicians embedded in every one of the university's colleges; Also free telehealth services; and more peer-to-peer support.

"We just rolled out a faculty and staff training on how to have a conversation related to mental health. That's brand new this year," Osburn said. "The training is not required, but I can tell you that every slot is full."

Taquan Dewberry is 18 and a first-year NC State student from Knightdale. He served as student body president at his Wake Forest high school last year, helping lead the charge for mental health breaks for students. Now, he wants to be a part of the mental health conversation at State.

"I think being able to talk as a student, not only a minority student but a Black male student as well, I feel like I can bring that perspective to the conversation," Dewberry said. "I feel like a lot of the time what's overlooked is not only addressing mental health as a whole but addressing it individually to each student."

Dr. Adam Bryant Miller, a research clinical psychologist at RTI International in RTP, researches best practices in suicide prevention -- including on college campuses. ABC11 asked him about the new strategies at NC State.

"If I was tasked with helping them come up with those types of resources, that would exactly be what I would be thinking about," Miller said.

But he also stressed that following up and keeping contact with students in crisis will be key.

"I think that the key challenge that campuses like NC State and every campus across our country faces is what to do after we identify those individuals," Miller added.

Keeping in contact is part of the plan at NC State this year. But it will be a challenge.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide -- free, confidential help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call or text the national lifeline at 988. Even if you feel like it, you are not alone.

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