Chapel Hill, N.C. — Parents gathered on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus Thursday to show their support for students after a challenging week.
One student died by suicide on Saturday morning, and a second student who attempted suicide on Sunday remains hospitalized. A second student suicide and another attempted suicide were reported last month.
Citing a “mental health crisis,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz canceled classes Tuesday so students could focus on their mental health, and counselors have been available across campus since then for students who needed to talk to someone.
Parents added their support on Thursday. Wearing yellow shirts, they offered free food and hugs to weary UNC-Chapel Hill students near the Davie Poplar and had dogs nearby for petting to lower stress levels.
“Their struggles [and] their worries may be hidden, so that’s what we’re here for,” event organizer Stephanie Ellington said. “[We want] to let them know that we’re here not just today. We’ll be here every day if you need just some type of assistance [or] some type of support.”
Ellington and other parents said they think students are especially isolated during the pandemic and hope their small gesture helps show the students that they are cared for and loved.
An online petition with more than 2,000 signatures calls for more support from the university for student mental health.
“Right now, there’s wait times of about three weeks to get a mental health appointment, and that’s not good,” said sophomore Jack Schweitzer, who knew one of the students who died.
“Having to deal with that has been hard,” Schweitzer said. “It’s hard to know it can happen to any of us, and we really don’t know what someone’s going through until it’s too late.”
Readjusting to life on campus after spending almost all of his first year in online classes has been difficult, he said. So Thursday’s event was special.
“It’s good to see we have parents who care, and they’re willing to come out here and take time off of work to show students they always have a resource to go to – they can always reach out to a mom or dad or just anyone if you need it,” he said.