14 Students Die During Tragic School Year at North Carolina State amid Concern for Students' Mental Health
The deaths included 7 suicides and 2 overdoses and led to campus-wide concern over students' mental health — and whether there were enough resources to help them through times of crisis
North Carolina State University is facing a grim end to the academic year, as 14 students at the Raleigh, N.C., campus have died since school started in the fall.
Seven of the students died by suicide, according to Yahoo! News, prompting the school to announce a task force on mental health in November, and a teletherapy service, AcademicLiveCare, in December.
Two others fatally overdosed, one student died in a car accident, and four others died of natural causes, the report said.
Most recently, two of the students died by suicide within 24 hours of each other in April.
"This is heartbreaking, and I know there's little I can say to console the deep hurt or heal the immense grief felt by the family and friends of these young people and others we've lost this year," Chancellor Randy Woodson wrote in a statement. "What I can say is that I, along with so many caring members of our community, share in this grief."
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Mariana Fabian, a fourth-year student and opinion editor for NC State's student newspaper, The Technician, told Yahoo! News that, "I really started feeling it once it got to the fourth student death, because it really started to feel like it was an epidemic on campus at that point."
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Seven of the students who died were enrolled in the school's College of Engineering, prompting some to look at the demands of the curriculum and resources available to the students, according to a report in the The Technician.
"We keep trying to create an environment that hopefully will allow individuals who may be suffering in their own way to reach out and that we can somehow intervene in some way, and I think that's what a lot of the efforts are focused on," Dr. Louis Martin-Vega, Dean of Engineering, told the student-run paper.
The College of Engineering, as well as other schools on campus, added embedded counselors to their staff, therapists who were available to students by appointment or by dropping in during office hours.
"It really hurts us a lot to see the numbers that have happened this year," Martin-Vega told The Technician. "We have lost a relatively large number of those that are engineering students, which, in part, I think is because we have 11,000 engineering students, but let's say it was just one — it would still be the same level of concern. And when something like this occurs, we all suffer together."
Angelitha Daniel, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the college, told The Technician that they're looking at ways to balance the "rigorous" curriculum with the students' mental health needs.
"Students, if they're having challenges, professors and TAs would be empathetic, and give them the flexibility that's needed," Daniel said. "Because I think those are the things that really cause students to have anxiety and be stressed when they're experiencing things and there's no flexibility and maybe turning in assignments. And so, we're working through how we do that."
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Since, the school also worked on creating a "culture of care," which addressed "promoting belonging and inclusion" at the school — a place where one student told Yahoo! News that it can feel "devastating" to find a friend group.
"I'm not going to sit here and say that I've never sat in my room and cried about that," the student said.
Several of the deaths were first-year students living on campus, The Technician reported.
"They have been trying to offer a lot more events for the community for people to gather, to take a break, even if it's just a pizza party or anything like that," Resident Advisor Gustavo Armas told The Technician. "I know that after what happened this school year, the school in general has been implementing a lot of mental health support and multiple resources, but sometimes, as much as they said they're trying to offer more and more, … they have not met the supply for the demand of students that need the support that they're asking for."
If you or someone you know needs mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.
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