CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Rethink: Psychiatric Illness was ended due to budget cuts. The program continues today as a committee of the Campus Y. The article has been updated to reflect the change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
A 2010 survey of 1,969 UNC first-years found that about one in 20 had seriously considered suicide within the past year. Approximately 1.2 percent of them had attempted suicide within the same period.
The proportion of students seeking help from Counseling and Psychological Services has increased within the past decade. In response to this trend, administrators, members of student government and on-campus clubs have increased efforts to address mental health concerns.
In 2011, Rethink: Psychiatric Illness — a living-learning community within UNC’s Connected Learning Program — was formed. Members hosted mental health training programs to educate others and combat stigma. The Connected Learning Program where Rethink began ended, but Rethink has continued as a committee of the Campus Y since 2012.
Efforts to educate others about mental illness continued through other outlets. From January 2016 to the summer of 2018, the Behavioral Healthcare Resource Program provided free Mental Health First Aid training for faculty and staff at UNC. The training, which focused on a five-step plan to navigate through critical mental health situations, was supported by a federal grant of almost $400,000.
The past decade has featured public displays intended to raise awareness about mental illness. In March 2017, the UNC Interfraternity Council and UNC System Association of Student Governments placed 1,400 lime green flags in Polk Place. Lime green is the recognized color for mental health awareness, and each flag represented 10 people who would suffer from mental illness during their academic career at UNC.
Send Silence Packing also came to Polk Place in 2012 and 2016. The organization displayed 1,100 backpacks on the quad to represent the 1,100 students who die by suicide each year.
The number of student groups dedicated to mental health awareness has increased within the last decade. In 2017, UNC was home to two student-run mental health organizations: Rethink: Psychiatric Illness and Active Minds. Mental Health Ambassadors was founded that year in order to focus on mental health skills training and professional outreach. Today, students can also get involved with Walk. Support. Glow., the Buddy Project, and We Wear the Mask.
Student Government’s Mental Health Committee created another organization in 2018: The UNC-Chapel Hill Mental Health Coalition. The coalition aims to coordinate among different mental health organizations and create a more unified approach to addressing mental health concerns on campus, said Mental Health Ambassadors president Catie Sappenfield.