Counselors, therapy dogs help UNC students, staff heal following deadly shooting on campus

Elaina Athans Image
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Counselors, therapy dogs help UNC students, staff heal
EMBED <>More Videos

The University of North Carolina is putting extra emphasis on the mental well-being of students, faculty and staff in the wake of the UNC shooting

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- The University of North Carolina is putting extra emphasis on the mental well-being of students, faculty and staff in the wake of recent traumatic events.

On Monday, the entire campus went on lockdown for around three hours over fears of an active shooter. A shooting did happen on campus, but it turned out to not be an active shooter.

SEE ALSO | 'Don't let this be our last moment': UNC shooting leaves students somber, critical of alert system

Tailei Qi is behind bars accused of going into Caudill Hall on South Road and gunning down his academic advisor, Zijie Yan.

The trauma from the deadly shooting and the fears of an active shooter spread across campus and affected nearly everybody in the Carolina family.

Classes were cancelled Monday afternoon and remain cancelled through Wednesday, so everyone can take the time they need to process.

WATCH | UNC officials give update 24-hours after deadly shooting on campus

A nonprofit group brought therapy dogs to campus Tuesday to raise spirits.

"Definitely after yesterday and everything that happened, this is very calming," student Hannah Mendenhall said.

Blue the Great Dane, donning his Carolina handkerchief, was soaking in all the attention while also offering the comfort he was trained to provide.

Blue was one of eight therapy dogs Hugs and Pups brought to UNC to heal this community.

"Now, of course, they really need us. Yesterday was a nightmare. It was traumatizing for everyone," said Hugs and Pups Co-Founder Cathy Emrick.

Students are still trying to process the violence and fear that stretched to every corner of campus.

Daniel Wlue was across the street from where the shooting happened.

"I didn't personally hear it, but I did hear all the SWAT and everything like that," said Wlue. "It is scary. I will say it is scary just seeing that firsthand. It felt like a movie almost."

The university offered in-person counseling at three locations and there is also an Employee Assistance Program.

Dr. Nadia Charguia is an Associate Professor with UNC's Department of Psychiatry. She said a team is now working to build a robust plan to help students in the months ahead, including group counseling.

"Our community will continue to embrace. There is not a one type of response or a one size fits all in terms of the need or the support," said Charguia.

At the same time, she's also trying to make sense of what one of her colleagues endured.

"Even just driving into work today, saying bye to my family -- just thinking through the emotions that he would have gone through that no one is expecting," said Charguia.

Wlue is moving through those emotions and said even just the few minutes he spent with Blue the therapy dog is helping him mentally prepare to head back to class Thursday.

"I don't think it's enough personally, we need more time just to get over it because someone died right there, and for people to just walk right past it like nothing happened is kind of crazy," said Wlue.