Dear Carolina Community:
Today, on World Mental Health Day, we are taking a moment to acknowledge and reflect on the seriousness of mental health illness and the challenges we face as we wrestle with the stress and pressures of our world today. 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. This crisis has directly impacted members of our community – especially with the passing of two students on campus in the past month. As chancellor, a professor and a parent, my heart breaks for all those whose suffering goes unnoticed.
After meeting with student and faculty leaders over the weekend, I am announcing a Wellness Day for our students on Tuesday, Oct. 12, as a step in addressing mental health. Classes will be canceled. I encourage every student to use this time to rest and to check in with each other during that day. Reach out to a friend, a classmate, or colleague and ask them, “honestly, how are you doing?” We will still recognize University Day at 2 p.m. in Memorial Hall as planned.
We will also draw on the robust expertise from across our campus, including Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine and School of Social Work to create a special support network starting Tuesday and throughout the week. They will be available for our students, faculty and staff in different areas of campus for those who need connection to resources and a place to process and talk about their experiences. We will provide more information on this tomorrow, and we encourage anyone who needs this resource to participate.
We will also convene a mental health summit later this month bringing together faculty, staff, and student leaders. Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, Assad Meymandi Distinguished Professor and chair of the psychiatry department in the School of Medicine, has agreed to lead this effort. Faculty, staff, students and campus leaders must work together to address this national crisis.
In the coming weeks, we will launch the Heels Care Network, a campus-wide campaign to promote and support mental health awareness, which requires all of us to play an important role. Check in with your colleagues and students regarding how they are doing. If you are concerned about someone, let us know. We will have as part of the Heels Care Network a reporting mechanism for you to share information about someone you believe needs help. Look for more information about the Heels Care Network and the mental health summit soon.
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.
If you need assistance during this time, please reach out to any of these departments that stand ready to help. Students, including graduate and professional students and postdocs, please contact Counseling and Psychological Services, the Dean of Students team or Student Wellness. For students who live on-campus, you have built-in support systems in your Carolina Housing staff. Reach out to them and let them know how they can help. Resources are also available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and the Crisis Text Line (Text START to 741-741).
We recognize that these issues are not for students only. Mental health applies to all of us. Faculty and staff who need support should reach out to the Employee Assistance Program.
The most important thing we can do is to care for each other, and I hope you continue to do this on Tuesday and for the rest of this year and beyond. Remember, our caring Carolina community is our best asset to get through this crisis together.
Kevin M. Guskiewicz