Content warning: This article contains mentions of suicide.
Spearheaded by Dr. Patrick Sullivan and Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute is a new addition to UNC's campus, with the goal of reducing "the morbidity and mortality of suicide in patients" both in and outside the UNC Health Care system.
The institute, housed within the School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, was funded by a $25 million gift from William and Dana Starling.
The institute comes to the University during what Meltzer-Brody described as "a public health crisis of suicide." In North Carolina, suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10 to 18-year-olds, and the third for 19 to 34-year-olds, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ 2022 Suicide Prevention Action Plan.
UNC's campus saw this firsthand after several student deaths during fall 2021 — events that Sullivan, the director of the Institute, said he considered during its creation process.
“Sam and I have had a lot of conversations about what happened last year and obviously those are just huge tragedies,” Sullivan said. “And again, this is a warning flag. And there's a lot of things that we need to do to try to make a dent in this. And that's a big part of what the institute that we're forming needs to do.”
William Starling — a 1975 UNC graduate — and Dana Starling lost both of their sons, Tyler and Gregory, to suicide. They donated to the University in their sons' honor.
“Our two children are gone, and it’s important to recognize their wonderful, short lives,” William Starling said in a statement. “I’m not sure how else to better do that than to help other families who may be struggling with their own children down the road. We want to recognize our children, and this is a special way to do that.”