Editor’s note: This story contains reporting about suicides, a topic that will be disturbing to some readers.
Five N.C. State University students could be alive today if the university did more to address a mental health crisis, a student told the Raleigh City Council.
“I stand here before you with five of my peers underneath the city when they should be experiencing their first kiss, the heat of the sun and the embrace of their parents,” Benjamin Pulgar-Guzman, a PhD sociology student, told council members during a meeting Tuesday.
There were four student deaths by suicide last semester and another this semester.
A student in the engineering program died by suicide last week, according to university officials.
“The Student Mental Health Task Force has been convening in the wake of a push for broader accountability and responsibility following the first three deaths, which seemingly occurred in silence,” Pulgar-Guzman said during the public comments part of the meeting.
Pulgar-Guzman criticized the university for “initiative after initiative, Band-aid after Band-aid on a gaping wound” that he said has failed to effectively address a mental health crisis that has led to student suicides.
Specifically, he called out N.C. State’s delay in forming a mental health task force “many deaths too late” that has not yet released a report on student mental health.
He cited UNC’s mental health task force, which was formed after a spate of student deaths in recent years and has released data relevant to the mental well-being of students and suicide risk.
UNC’s report in the fall of 2017 said 90% of undergraduate students and 87% of graduate students that answered the UNC-Chapel Hill National College Health Assessment Survey said that they felt overwhelmed, said Pulgar-Guzman.
The report also said that 52% of undergraduate and 40% of graduates respondents said they felt hopeless and 37% of undergraduate and 31% of graduate respondents said they “felt so depressed it was difficult to function.”
NC State’s task force will release a report this month that will lead to “significant revisions” of N.C. State policies, according to Lisa Zapata, a co-chair of the task force, who previously spoke to The News & Observer.
This story was initially revealed February 21, 2023, 3:02 PM.