CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — Nearly 400 students, mental health experts and University of North Carolina System leaders came together Tuesday afternoon in Chapel Hill to focus on mental health issues facing young people at North Carolina state schools and community colleges.
For many college students, the first year away from home can be frightening.
Kaila Coleman can relate.
Now a freshman at Fayetteville State University, she moved all the way from Indiana.
“When I first came out here, I was very anxious,” Coleman said. “I was actually homesick. I was actually depressed.”
One of her fellow classmates, Niayah McFadden, said she’s been through a lot, too, especially following the death of her mother.
The two undergrads are members of a school organization that focuses on the well-being of students.
“Experiencing depression and anxiety, it’s just a way that I can connect with my peers in talking about these issues,” McFadden said.
On Tuesday, they showed a presentation at this year’s Behavioral Health Convening.
UNC System President Peter Hans said there needs to be a community-wide solution.
“We’ve seen a very marked increase in anxiety, depression and isolation,” he said.
Hans also said social media and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated mental health issues among young adults.
Too many times he has seen students take their own lives.
“The greater awareness of the issues and addressing them in a thoughtful manner will only lead to more support and more resources for those students who need it the most,” Hans said.
This past month, the UNC System received almost $8 million from Gov. Roy Cooper for mental health initiatives.
Leaders also launched a telepsychiatry support program.
“I just hope that we get seen and heard as students and that we feel comfortable expressing ourselves and passing on the information that can help us mentally,” McFadden said.
Hans also said the main takeaway from Tuesday’s event is that people care deeply about college students. He said there are also grants for students to receive off-campus care.
New funding will provide “resilience training” for new students and grants for campus programs dedicated to life skill development.