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UNC senior from Matthews talks pressures of managing coursework ahead of ‘Wellness Day’

The day has been declared a ‘Wellness Day’ by the university’s chancellor, Kevin Guskiewicz, who released a memo on Sunday, World Mental Health Day, through university communications.
Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 11:38 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 12, 2021 at 5:53 AM EDT
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WBTV) - Students across the campus of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill will have a day without classes Tuesday.

The day has been declared a ‘Wellness Day’ by the university’s chancellor, Kevin Guskiewicz, who released a memo on Sunday, World Mental Health Day, through university communications. It follows the deaths of two students on campus in the past month and calls from student leaders to cancel classes for at least a day.

Related: UNC chancellor to give students Tuesday off for mental health

One of the students who will be on campus for Wellness Day is UNC senior Izzy D’Alo. D’Alo is from Matthews and took time to speak with WBTV in a Zoom interview Monday night. The senior said she was shocked to learn that UNC students had died in recent suicides.

“I didn’t believe it at first. Just cause something like that is kind of jarring and it’s on campus so close to home,” explained the UNC senior.

A makeshift memorial was placed in the heart of UNC’s campus Monday. It served as a tribute to students who had recently died by suicide. D’Alo said the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressures of managing coursework have been difficult.

“It’s very like, workaholic. That’s just the vibe here,” explained the UNC senior. “It’s like, ‘oh I can’t keep up with the demands. I need to take care of myself. I can’t do this, but I have to because I have to get to where I want to be.’”

Guskiewicz’s letter addresses the recent passing of two students and the mental health crisis in America.

“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,” Guskiewicz wrote.

The memo explained that the university will call on its counselors and psychologists to create a special support network for the next week. The letter also noted that a mental health summit is being planned for later this month and the university will launch a campus-wide campaign to promote mental health awareness in the coming weeks.

“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,” wrote the chancellor.

Bailey Pitts, a licensed clinical mental health counselor at Sun Counseling and Wellness in Charlotte, also spoke to WBTV in a Zoom interview Monday. Pitts said nearly half of her clients are students in college. She encouraged students who may be struggling with mental health to ask for help.

“Reach out. There is help out there and there’s qualified professionals out here that want to help you,” said Pitt

Students at UNC-Chapel Hill have access to CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services), but D’Alo and other students claim it can be difficult to get an appointment with the campus service.

“I went and they flat out told me ‘we can’t give you what you need; you need a therapist off campus,’” explained D’Alo.

Jamison McDaniel, a senior student at UNC, told CBS 17 he too believed it was difficult to get an appointment with CAPS.

“The services that they have, it’s been backed up now so it’s hard for students to be able to set an appointment for that. So that’s something they should be looking into,” said McDaniel.

D’Alo explained that she is critical of the way UNC has addressed mental health among students. She said she wants more resources put toward mental health programs on campus.

“They’re not doing enough. They act like they do. They say they do, but they don’t because we live and see the result,” said the UNC student.

Anyone struggling with mental health can call the national substance abuse and mental health services administration helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

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