North Carolina State Confronts National Crisis after deaths of 14 Students

North Carolina State Confronts National Crisis after deaths of 14 Students

With the end of spring semester which ended last week, North Calorina State University concluded a tragic school year that saw the deaths of 14 students.

One Student was killed in car accident, two overdosed, four passed away from natural causes and seven died by suicide as described by Mick Kulikowski , North Calorina’s state director of strategic communication. Over a dozen students and mental health experts described the loss of life at NC State to ABC News as staggering and tragic, as well as a concerning example of national trends in student mental health.

“I really started feeling it once it got to the fourth student death, because it really started to feel like it was an epidemic on campus at that point,” said Mariana Fabian, a fourth-year student and opinion editor for NC State’s student newspaper, The Technician.

The deaths have cast an outsized shadow on the Raleigh campus, where classes continued through the year as the number of deaths gradually increased. NC State convened a task force devoted to mental health in November, releasing an 89-page report in late February that recommended a flurry of proposals to improve student life. The report’s sobering conclusion: while NC State is “dedicated” to improving student mental health, “there is not only room for, but also a need for, additional efforts.”

Apart from occasional wellness days and outreach following student deaths, the humdrum of college life continued at NC State, leaving little time for grieving according to some students.

“We’re having to say goodbye to the students, but also focus on turning in an assignment,” junior Angelina Cordone told ABC News.

Some communities on campus have faced a larger toll of the tragedies — as at least seven students, including three who died by suicide, have been part of NC State’s School of Engineering, according to Kulikowski. With over 36,000 students, NC State has averaged eight student deaths, including three by suicide, annually since 2018, according to the task force’s report.

“I think a lot of people really want to honor the lives that were lost, but there was also a big feeling of enough is enough,” said Eleanor Lott, a sophomore and a member of NC State’s mental health task force.

In late March, Vice Chancellor and Dean Doneka Scott described the year to ABC News as a tragic “outlier,” pointing to the nationwide challenge of educating students amid a rise in depression and suicide among young people.

“Institutions across the country are grappling with this,” Scott said. “This is not an NC State-only issue. It’s an issue in higher education writ large.”

The rate of suicide has roughly increased in the United States over the last two decades. Despite a two-year decline in 2019 and 2020, the rate rose again in 2021, with one of the most significant year-over-year jumps for those aged 15-24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For that age group, suicide remains the third-leading cause of death.

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