Last week, UNC asked faculty to pause instruction on Friday, Oct. 9 in observance of World Mental Health Day, “creating a three-day weekend and allowing time for self-care.”
When I first heard the news, I couldn’t help but laugh. But the laughter quickly subsided, creating space for anger. Putting other problems with the decision aside, the University’s assertion that it actually cares about the mental health of its students is gaslighting at its worst.
Actions speak louder than words — and the University has made it crystal clear that it doesn’t consider the well-being of students a priority. It never has.
Sexual assault has long been an epidemic on UNC’s campus, and the administration has done little to address it. Black students constantly fear for their safety because UNC’s incestuous relationship with white supremacy puts them in danger. This semester, the administration risked our lives in an experiment, jerking us to and fro as they tried (and failed) to carry out a successful reopening.
Student mental health was a concern long before COVID-19 hit, and it won’t disappear whenever things go back to “normal,” either. In 2019, the UNC Mental Health Task Force delivered its report to the Board of Trustees. The report cited data from the American College Health Association’s fall 2017 survey of undergraduate students, which found that in the year prior, 90 percent of undergraduate students reported feeling overwhelmed, 37 percent felt so depressed it was difficult to function and 1.3 percent — more than 245 individual students — had attempted suicide.