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Editor’s note: This article contains mentions of suicide and mental illness. 

In light of Tristan Burd and Ryan Bohner’s deaths, NC State needs to address its community when tragic events occur on campus. The University’s display of ignorance and lack of transparency causes more harm than good and actively spreads misinformation to the campus community.

NC State has failed to properly communicate to its students after the deaths of Burd on Oct. 7 and Bohner on Sept. 8. Aside from an email University Housing sent to residents of Lee Hall Oct. 7 and a vague message from Chancellor Randy Woodson on World Mental Health Day, NC State provided no additional information regarding either death.

While we were able to provide our readership with the little information we had through a staff report in October, University Communications has a much broader reach. Making even a small amount of information available to the public is important to ensure students and faculty across campus can get the support they need from their peers and family.

Investigations details are understandably kept private, but near-complete silence on the University’s behalf disregards the impact of Burd and Bohner’s deaths on the broader community.

NC State sent what little information it could to those closest to the incident, including Lee Hall residents and students in Burd’s academic program. Students who live outside of Lee Hall, parents and concerned community members didn’t know much more than the rumors that were circulating on social media.

This problem was exacerbated in the case of Bohner’s death. Nobody within NC State’s community received a message regarding his sudden passing, and it was largely left up to Bohner’s fraternity to organize a vigil and encourage students to check in with each other.

Facebook groups, such as NCSU Parents, utilized an online community to connect with other parents and find out what’s going on with their kids and the University itself. These groups, however, should not be the primary source of information regarding sensitive topics as they can lead to an abundance of false information and rumors spreading throughout the community.

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In Woodson’s email regarding Mental Health Awareness Day, there was no mention of an active investigation into Burd’s death. Without an official statement, NC State inadvertently dealt more damage to its confused, worried community of students and parents.

Any sensitive or private information within the investigation should not be released to the general public. That being said, a total absence of information, statements or the confirmation or denial of rumors isn’t acceptable. In the end, the lack of transparency from the University may end up doing more harm than it does good. Without the truth — or even the partial truth — rumors swirl and misinformation spreads.

According to the University of Michigan, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. However, NC State doesn’t track suicide deaths. While it’s difficult to talk about suicide, no matter the circumstance, we lose much more in not reporting and measuring this data — counselors and mental health advocates on campus may not be able to determine the efficacy of their services.

As an esteemed institution, it’s NC State’s responsibility to do more for mental health. Dog therapy events on campus are certainly cute and a great photo opportunity, but what about investing more time and money in on-campus mental health resources?

While NC State’s counseling center is a good resource for students, it is not intended to provide long-term, one-on-one counseling. The average number of individual short-term therapy sessions students use at the counseling center is 4-5. Up to 12 sessions are offered based on needs, but that number isn’t guaranteed.

While the center provides a starting point for anyone seeking help, it is not a place students can rely on for long-term support. Increasing the Counseling Center’s capability to provide long-term counseling to students who prefer on-campus services will encourage more students to utilize their services.

Additionally, NC State should implement a campus-wide system to receive feedback from students on what the administration can do to improve students' mental health. This system could be similar to class evaluations or reports compiled via open conversation spaces. Steps like these will encourage students to open up about issues and concerns with their peers and supervisors and also form a way for the community’s voice to make its way back to the administration. 

NC State needs to do better to help its student body and extended community. This begins with transparency, better communication and mental health resources that students can depend on.  

If you or someone you know is having a mental health emergency, the Counseling Center can be reached 24 hours a day at 919-515-2423. If you are in a crisis situation and need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. In the case of a life-threatening emergency, call 911.

The Counseling Center’s website offers free online mental health screenings, a plethora of self-help resources regarding mental health and wellness concerns and a comprehensive list of campus services available for those who need guidance. To view an exhaustive list,  visit counseling.dasa.ncsu.edu/resources.

If you’re seeking professional counseling or other mental health services on campus, visit the Counseling Center’s Getting Started page at counseling.dasa.ncsu.edu/about-us/gettingstarted to complete paperwork, set up an appointment and more.

This unsigned editorial is the opinion of Technician’s editorial board and is the responsibility of the editor-in-chief.

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