NC State students, staff to focus on mental health after student's death

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Tuesday, February 14, 2023
NCSU students, staff to focus on mental wellness
The student's death is the eighth since the start of the school year.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina State University campus and community are mourning another student's death. The apparent death by suicide happened Saturday on campus.

University police confirm the undergraduate student was found dead in Sullivan Hall.

The student's death is the eighth since the start of the school year happening just days after a grad student was found dead the E.S. King Village Apartments.

"Our Wolfpack community lost a student this weekend in an apparent suicide, just a few days after a graduate student died from what police believe were natural causes," Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a message to students. "In January, an undergraduate student also passed from what police believe were natural causes."

Woodson said counseling services will be available to students on Monday and Tuesday. There will be a number of mental health resources available for students and faculty including trained professionals and morning yoga.

"It's absolutely the most important to destigmatize mental health. A lot of students, like you mentioned, they're away from home for the first time. Maybe they come from a culture, a community that doesn't necessarily accept mental health as a real struggle. But, you know, the brain is an organ just like any other organ. It can get sick just like any other organ," said sophomore Eleanor Lott, who serves on the Student Mental Health Task Force, urged open dial

She highlighted services such as AcademicLiveCare, which offers up to 12 free telehealth counseling services for students, as one way the university is working to address mental health challenges.

"It's really important for students and for faculty and staff and the entire community to recognize mental health as a regular disease that can impact anybody just as much as any other disease," Lott explained.

Lott discussed the importance of students becoming involved in mental health efforts.

"It's having a voice on the ground that can say, this is what my peers are receiving or what they're not receiving, and this is what my peers are benefiting from. And are not benefiting from," said Lott.

Thursday, the university will observe a Wellness Day, in which there will be no classes.

"Last fall, they had a Wellness Day and we had more kids than ever that," said Nancy Nelson, the founder of Free Moms.

Nelson started the volunteer group in 2019, which visits Talley Student Union each Thursday from 1-4 PM and offering baked goods. Since then, it's grown to about 100 parents (including a few dad's), dogs, and more than 600 students who attend.

"Some will say, 'Oh, this is so good. I'm having such a hard week.' We hear that a lot," said Nelson.

She emphasized the importance of offering an outlet for students to gather.

"I think it's because kids don't have a sense of belonging I mean, they don't have acceptance either. They don't feel loved. And that's exactly what we're trying to give them," Nelson explained.

Nelson had two children who attended NC State, and said most volunteers have children at the school.

"I'm a mom and a grandma, and I love you kids. And I know that kids are really struggling today, but I just want to bring support to you in the form of free hugs and free friendship and free food," Nelson explained.

Mental health issues have impacted children of all ages over the course of the pandemic.

"We're in what I would call a critical crisis in providing mental health support in our schools," said Dr. Jim Deni, President of the North Carolina School Psychology Association.

Deni urged parents to proactively monitor their child's online and social media activity, discussing the dangers of cyberbullying.

"You want a parent who you can go to who will actively listen without judging or moralizing or preaching. Because if they don't have that relationship with their families, then they're going to seek, you know, other relationships with other people that might not be as strong," said Deni.

He also wants to see more mental health professionals; according to the North Carolina School Psychology Association, the current ratio of school psychologists to students in the state is 1:1,943, nearly four times higher than the ratio recommended by The National Association of School Psychologists.

Monday, Governor Cooper announced $7.7 million in funding to support mental health programs at colleges and universities, including through suicide prevention training, resiliency training for faculty, staff, and students, and access to an after-hours mental health hotline.

"Identifying their mental distress and getting them access to quality treatment is more critical for our students than ever," Governor Cooper said in a statement shared by his Office. "This investment will help our state's colleges and universities better support their students so they can thrive."

You can also access the North Carolina Psychiatry Access Line at 919-681-2909. It's available Monday-Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM, and offers a free consultation.

"It's difficult to hear the frequency of it, in general, is pretty jarring and it's a good reminder to always check up on your friends," said Althaf Salavudeen a student at NC State.

"It's been really sad and I haven't had personal connections with these people, but they've also been in buildings that are really close to I can't imagine what they're going through," said Mastewal Bailey.

According to a survey conducted last year by NCSU's counseling center, 27% of students reported being so depressed that it was difficult to function.

If you or someone you know could use mental health resources, please call 988 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255

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