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UNC-Chapel Hill cancels classes after police investigate reported suicides
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UNC-Chapel Hill cancels classes after police investigate reported suicides

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CHAPEL HILL — UNC-Chapel Hill officials canceled classes Tuesday after police investigated multiple reports of suicide since the start of classes this fall.

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz announced the cancellations in a statement Sunday night, saying that on World Mental Health Day, the school was taking a moment to reflect on the seriousness of mental health issues.

“We are in the middle of a mental health crisis, both on our campus and across our nation, and we are aware that college-aged students carry an increased risk of suicide,” Guskiewicz said. “This crisis has directly impacted members of our community — especially with the passing of two students on campus in the past month.”

“At Carolina, we strive to put our students first in everything we do. We are living in a world that is constantly shifting and changing. We are facing major challenges and the ongoing toll this takes on our health cannot be underestimated. This cannot be solved by one person, or on one day, alone.”

Tuesday will be a Wellness Day in which students are encouraged to rest and check in with each other.

UNC-Chapel Hill police records show two calls made to 911 over the weekend, one regarding an attempted suicide, and another for a suicide. The university said investigations in both of those cases are ongoing.

Police call logs also show two reported suicides in September.

Police call logs only show what callers reported to 911, not what actually happened. That means the details that are publicly released for either of those cases could change after investigations are completed.

Haley Gingles, speaking for Winston-Salem State University, said WSSU is supporting UNC-Chapel Hill as a sister institution, and taking its own steps to protect its students’ mental health through a year that’s been “tough for college students.”

“Over the past year, we’ve enhanced our mental health support offerings to meet students where they are,” she said. “We offer one-on-one in-person and virtual counseling appointments with licensed therapists, group counseling, and we’re training faculty and staff members to be mental health advocates. Our counseling services staff has also been working tirelessly on preventative crisis plans so that we can intervene as soon as possible.”

Gingles said WSSU has also built in wellness days to the semester calendar to allow students a break to rest and reenergize.

In a release Sunday, UNC’s Undergraduate Executive Branch, Student Government and the Graduate and Professional Student Government said students’ mental health needs should be prioritized and considered.

The executive branch said in a tweet Sunday it was in talks with university administration to cancel classes Monday and Tuesday, and the student government and graduate and professional student government said it’s requesting the university provide a break from instruction along with the postponement of University Day events.

“All university actions should be guided by the expertise of Carolina’s mental health professionals and we request transparency from the university as to the implementation of this guidance,” the graduate and undergraduate student governments said. “A loss of even one Tar Heel is one too many.”

Both releases encouraged students who are struggling to contact the Dean of Students team, Counseling and Psychological Services or Student Wellness for assistance.

Journal reporter Wesley Young contributed to this story.

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