UNC-CH Launches Mental Health Resource Network After Multiple Suicide Reports :: WRAL.com

– Wednesday marks an important milestone in the fight against a mental health crisis at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The university has officially launched a new online network that offers a variety of support to students seeking help. The number of students seeking mental health support has increased dramatically during the pandemic and more and more people are talking about the issue.

After three suicides were reported last fall, students highlighted an even greater sense of urgency to create a centralized hub to meet with students wherever they are.

As the memorials grew, calls for change loomed on the horizon.

“We have a viral pandemic. We have a racial pandemic. We have a mental health pandemic and people are really struggling,” said Amy Johnson, vice chancellor for student affairs at UNC. “We are talking about mental health now in a way that we never have before. It’s among our students, faculty and colleagues in our community.”

“We’re hoping it will reduce the stigma and we’ve already seen some of that reducing the stigma around mental health, accessing it for yourself and for others

Last month, UNC police crime records show officers responded to a suicide attempt and a death investigation.

“After last semester’s tragedies and suicides on campus, this has affected me very personally,” said Ethan Phillips, director of the Department of Student Welfare and Safety.

The first time Phillips had to deal with suicidal thoughts was eight years ago when he was a young boy. Since then he has worked on coalitions to support the expansion of mental health resources.

“It becomes even more important that we work to rebuild and strengthen our resources that we have here on campus for our students,” he said.

That’s where the Heels Care Network comes in. Johnson explained that the capabilities of this online hub are endless.

“It has links to 24/7 support. It has a comprehensive, searchable and filterable database of mental health resources. So individuals can actually go in and find the right resources tailored to their needs,” Johnson said.

Students and university officials worked together alongside the communications department, counseling and psychology services, campus health department, IT services, and student affairs.

The site has been in the works for more than a year after acknowledging the barriers that come with seeking help, such as counseling outside of work or class hours and waiting lists.

“I felt like our resources needed a better gateway. A place where students could access it and really step into that broader spectrum of care,” Phillips said.

On the Heels Care Network, students can find live chat options with support teams, even mental health first aid training.

“We hope this will be a very public manifestation and statement of our culture of compassion and care in Carolina and reaffirm that we all have a part to play,” Johnson said.

Many people agree that this network is a great first step to meeting all needs.

“I want to make sure this is a conversation we have regardless of acute cases and mental health crises. We need to talk about prevention all the time so that it doesn’t take a crisis or a specific case of tragedy to motivate us to change or make resources more accessible,” Phillips said.

The online network also has a link to an anonymous care referral form so you can come in and report a colleague or student you may be concerned about.

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