Suicides at UNC-Chapel Hill led to a day off, dogs on campus and other efforts to relieve stress as students grieve.

People handed flowers to strangers on campus this week, and wrote encouraging notes in chalk. Students played with baby goats and tail-wagging dogs brought in to comfort them. Classes were canceled Tuesday, pop-up counseling centers appeared in dorms and concerned parents brought cookies and hugs to campus, The Washington Post reported.

It has been a week of grief and disbelief at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There have been reports of two deaths by suicide since the semester began, according to the university, and an attempted suicide last weekend that prompted an outpouring of sadness and worry.

The reasons behind any suicide are complex, and little is publicly known about these deaths. But the response on the Chapel Hill campus has been immediate and intense. And it has resonated nationally, coming at a time when many young people are feeling particularly burdened.

College students nationwide are more stressed — with the coronavirus pandemic adding loneliness, worry about illness, economic distress, relentless uncertainty and churn to a time of life that is already challenging for many. Demand for mental health services had already been high, but a recent study of college students found increased levels of anxiety and isolation during the pandemic.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 10 percent of adults surveyed in June 2020 had seriously considered suicide within the past month. Two years earlier, the share stood at about 4 percent. The issue is particularly acute for young adults. Among 18-to-24-year-olds surveyed in 2020, the CDC said, about 25 percent had seriously considered suicide.

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