UNC Chapel Hill launches statewide mental health program

UNC Chapel Hill launches statewide mental health program
Published: Jun. 14, 2023 at 6:15 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - UNC Chapel Hill began its program to connect with local schools, healthcare providers and nonprofits in all 100 counties across the state. The goal is to fix the mental health issues that spawned during the pandemic.

Suicide rates across the state continue to increase, but this new program aims to curb those numbers and get people the help they need.

It aims to bring communities together across the state to identify their unique needs and find the best sustainable solution for ongoing mental health problems and rising suicide rates. One focus of the new project is children.

The state says the main demographic of hospitalizations for self-inflicted injuries is children from the ages of ten to eighteen.

“It’s a generational thing that we see in younger individuals, they’re much more comfortable talking about their mental health needs and being in a crisis. I would like to think that yes, we’ve broken or shattered that stigma around suicidality and mental health. I think there’s still a little bit more work to go but we’re definitely in a different place than we were,” said Ryan Estes, chief operations officer for Coastal Horizons.

Those problems correlate with higher suicide rates and self-inflicted injuries. According to North Carolina DHHS, there were about 3,000 emergency department visits from October to December 2022, which is slightly lower than the year before.

Speaking out about mental health has been a growing issue and Port City United in New Hanover County is making sure they have resources available for the community, especially children who are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

“We’re seeing more susceptibility and more incidents of adolescents taking their own lives, unfortunately. I have seen an uptick and one of the ways in which we’re trying to do what we can in New Hanover County and in our local community is to ensure that we can offer family therapy services with children and their parents,” said Renae Floyd, therapist for Port City United.

How will UNC’s Carolina Across 100 new program work?

The groups will identify the needs of their community and then the new institute will help select the best measures to create a positive impact.

For instance, Coastal Horizons offers Mental Health services in New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick Counties and one of their main focuses is working with the schools and preventing suicide attempts in children. Which it says is a key demographic given that group suffers the most emergency department visits from self-inflicted injuries.

“We partner with the school system, and we do plenty of school threat assessments. Oftentimes what that means is that a child has made a statement in a classroom, and we then will have a Licensed Clinical Professional to be able to assess, you know, did I want to go home? Did I break up with my girlfriend? Or am I truly in a mental health distress?” said Estes.

Those who are interested in participating in UNC’s project need to apply by July 28th.

If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are local resources available. Remember you can always dial 9-8-8 to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Below are the numbers for Coastal Horizons locations:

New Hanover County: 1(910)343-0145

Pender County: 1(910)259-0668

Brunswick County: 1(910)754-4515