UNC Boosts Fees for Suicide Prevention

UNC is increasing student fees by $16 a year to boost its suicide prevention services in the wake of four student suicides in the 2002-03 school year and two more apparent suicides in the school year that just ended.

Last fall, 1,060 students were diagnosed with depression by the UNC counseling center.

The University has formed a suicide prevention task force composed of doctors, faculty and students to examine how other universities deal with this issue.

The two most recent deaths involved a freshman, who was found dead in Forest Theatre of a gunshot wound to the head on the last day of spring classes; and a junior, who was found drowned in Jordan Lake after he was missing during spring exams.

Email messages were sent to several thousand seniors this year asking whether they felt depressed. The message was intended to reach students who could be at risk for depression but are unlikely to visit a mental health center. UNC received a $200,000 grant for the study, and counselors say about 30 students have come in for meetings as a result of the e-mail messages.

The fee increase would enable UNC Counseling and Psychological Service to increase its staff to 19 from 15 people, said John Edgerly, director of CAPS. Doctors also will be brought in during high-demand times, such as exams and holidays; in the past, students have complained about having to wait two to three weeks to see a counselor. Students in what are considered crisis situations are allowed walk-in appointments.

Dean Bresciani, who was UNC’s interim vice chancellor for student affairs through the spring semester, said CAPS has been largely a state-funded program for years. The student fee increase allows administrators to move the program to a more stable revenue stream, away from the whims of state and campus economic conditions.

“The task force is researching programs at other campuses and analyzing that data to determine if there are any ‘proven’ programs or services out there that we could learn from,” Bresciani said. “We are always looking for ways to refine what we do and practice the best possible models, which was the basis for the task force.”

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