'We can always do more:' Checking in on NC State suicide prevention efforts after tragic year

Joel Brown Image
Thursday, September 28, 2023
'We can always do more:' Mental wellness remains a focus at NC State
ABC11's Safer Schools Week series continues on campus at NC State -- as the university grapples with the effects of the nation's mental health crisis

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- ABC11's Safer Schools Week series continues back on campus at NC State -- as the university grapples with the effects of the nation's mental health crisis on its campus.

The number of student deaths by suicide was staggeringly high last school year. And there's already been one death this new semester.

It's been a little more than a month since we met NC State first-year computer science major Taquan Dewberry as the Knightdale native was moving into his new dorm.

"I think I'm adjusting pretty well. I'm enjoying everything that's happening," Dewberry said this week.

He's now running for student senate. One of his big campaign platforms is mental wellness.

Just days into the semester, one of Dewberry's fellow students at State's College of Engineering was found dead outside a dorm. The tragedy came after an eye-opening number of student deaths last school year: Seven students died by suicide; most from the engineering school.

"It really put things in perspective for me because that's someone else going through the exact same thing I am right now," he said. "One thing that disappointed me was the university did send out a message reminding people of the resources they already had. But at the same time, they didn't offer a day off to students."

Adam Bryant Miller, a research clinical psychologist at RTI International, researches and consults on best practices for suicide prevention.

"This is the hardest part of suicide prevention on college campuses," Bryant Miller told ABC11.

He applauded NC State's response this school year -- dramatically increasing the number of clinicians on campus; offering free telehealth therapy services; and new training for staffers.

Miller is a big proponent of a campus gatekeeper program: Peers, friends, and student leaders who know what signs to look for and what to do.

"They're very effective at increasing self-efficacy, for knowing what to do when a peer expresses suicidal thoughts, and actual knowledge about risk factors for suicide, and how to help connect individuals to mental health," he said. "I don't want the message to be that there aren't services available. There are. But there is a gap between identifying people and connecting them to services effectively."

NC State's first Wellness Day of the year was Sept. 19. There's another scheduled for February.

Dewberry continues to press the issue as he campaigns for student government.

"We do have some resources. But we can always get more," Dewberry said.

If you or someone you know is struggling, call or text 9-8-8. There's help available 24-7