CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has canceled classes Tuesday amid two suicide investigations.
The university said over the weekend one student died by suicide and a second attempted suicide.
In a letter sent to students, the school encouraged students to use Tuesday as a day to rest and focus on their mental health. They were also encouraged to check in on fellow classmates.
If you or a loved one are facing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, there is help readily available. You can call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or chat with them online. There are also resources in North Carolina available here and in South Carolina available here.
These two incidents, however, are part of a growing epidemic in our country.
“For young people ages 10 to 34, suicide is the second leading cause of death,” according to Fonda Bryant with the Charlotte chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
“It’s an epidemic,” she said Monday in an interview with WCNC Charlotte.
An epidemic some say has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts between Feb and March 2021, were up 51% for girls ages 12 to 17, compared to the same period in 2019.
“Fifty percent of youth, if they do not receive treatment for a mental health condition they turn to substance abuse, so now you’re going to have two issues,” Bryant, a 26-year suicide survivor herself, said.
Bryant said parents need to talk to their children and also need to learn the signs of a mental health issue, which can include a change in personality, loss of interest in activities, changes in eating – either eating too much or too little, changes in sleep and isolation.
“When your child goes in their room and shuts the door and does not come out, you need to go in there behind them and go, hey what’s going on?” Bryant said.
In September, a Hough High School student died by suicide just a few weeks into the school year. And just this month an 11-year-old girl took her life outside her family’s home after reports she had been bullied for months.
“It doesn’t shock me, it hurts me and it’s a call to action,” Bryant said.
Bryant said she understands that for many parents the topic of suicide makes them uncomfortable, but said losing a child to suicide is far worse. She also stressed time for parents to reach their children is limited.
“Stats say by the time a child is 14, 50% of them are dealing with a mental health condition and by the time they are 24, it's 75% so if we don’t reach those children before they turn, by law 18, you cannot make them go and get help, the help they need,” she said.
Bryant hosts free QPR suicide prevention training, where she teaches people the signs of suicide. Her next training is coming up Oct. 23. She said knowing the signs can help you save a life.
To attend the training, email Bryant at firstname.lastname@example.org.