Parents and advocates calling for more mental health resources after North Carolina’s 4th state suicide

RALEIGH, North Carolina – Another North Carolina State University student died of an apparent suicide Thursday, the fourth such death this semester, according to a university spokesperson.

The student, a sophomore, was found dead in a room at Wolf Hall, he said.

“Obviously it’s very sad. He’s our classmate,” said David Tofade.

“The university lost five students this semester,” the spokesperson told WRAL News, “one was an off-campus car accident and there were four apparent suicides.”

The latest death comes just over a week after the university’s first Wellness Day – a day without classes or tests during which students were encouraged to focus on their mental health and saw each other offer free activities including yoga classes, coloring, crafts, a guided walk, rock climbing, tea time, video games and more.
“The university is putting all the resources we have into reaching our students in need and providing them with support and guidance,” a spokeswoman told WRAL News, and directed students to Wolfpack Wellness Resources, a list of on and off campus tips, prevention, podcasts and other resources.

Lori Evans is the mother of an NC State student. “She’s devastated and the school as a whole is devastated,” Evans said.

She thinks the isolation of the pandemic is a big part of the problem and she fears this is just the beginning,

“If the resources don’t become available for mental health issues, we’ll see this become an epidemic like we’ve never seen,” Evans said.

North Carolina State Student Government President McKenzy Heavlin said, “Our leaders need to have good conversations about how we’re moving forward and how we’re getting there.”

Psychotherapist Kamala Uzzell is familiar with the NC State Counseling Center. She says they are doing what they can to fix the problem. She says they will need more support if they want to support all the students on this huge campus.

“If there’s any failure, it’s because we need to have more focus, more attention and more money spent on mental health resources,” she said.

Evans, a high school teacher, helped her own students. She said she used the special suicide prevention training she received.

Fonda Bryant is the instructor who provided this training to Evans and others at her high school. There’s a reason she’s so passionate about this job.

“27 years ago I was battling depression,” Bryant said.

She said she almost tried to kill herself until her aunt intervened.

“She said ‘are you going to kill yourself?’ And I said yes,” Bryant said. “She swung into action like a superhero.”

She thinks many more people should be trained to help those around them struggling with their mental health.

“We have to recognize that we are in a crisis in this country with mental health and suicide,” Bryant said. “Treat people with empathy, compassion and kindness, because you never know what people are going through. A smile can hide a lot of pain.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, students enjoyed two “feel good” days this semester following a string of suicides last fall.

“Students are definitely under a lot of stress,” said NC State sophomore Tony Kelly. “To say, ‘Hey, I need help, I’m not well, it’s very difficult.

In addition to the expected pressures of exams and assignments, students are dealing with the upheaval and isolation they have experienced during the pandemic and the misdeeds of social media.

Student suicides, a scourge across the country

From across the country to North Carolina, colleges and universities are grappling with a mental health crisis.

In 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death among North Carolina youth ages 10 to 18 and the third leading cause of death among 19 to 34 year olds, according to the NC State Center for Health Statistics.

Learning of the deaths of classmates at NC State hits student Delaney Engel hard.

“It’s really sad. It’s something that shouldn’t happen,” she said.

As a freshman, Engel admits adjusting to campus life isn’t easy.

“Go in and adapt to everything. A lot of people don’t know the resources that are available to them,” she says.

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