Health | News

24 North Carolina counties to collaborate on improving mental health and preventing suicide

August 23, 2023

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Carolina Across 100 initiative announced Wednesday the selection of 15 local teams in North Carolina that will work to address mental health challenges and reduce suicides. 

Under the new program Our State, Our Wellbeing, Carolina Across 100 will partner with the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute to provide selected teams with resources and strategies to build robust local systems that improve mental and behavioral health and prevent suicides.  

Carolina launched Our State, Our Wellbeing in June in response to alarming increases in rates of suicide and mental health crises in recent years. From 2004 to 2020, the number of suicides per 100,000 residents in North Carolina grew by more than 10%. More recently, the disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated risk factors related to mental and behavioral health. 

“Both the total number and the rate of suicides have increased in North Carolina over time,” said Patrick Sullivan, Director of the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute. “By bringing experienced local partners together to share ideas and identify next steps, we will be better positioned to design effective strategies that are localized and sustainable.”   

The 15 selected teams are composed of health providers, local government agencies, educational institutions, faith-based groups, and civic and nonprofit organizations from 24 counties across the state. Teams were selected through a competitive application process led by a panel with representatives from Carolina Across 100, UNC Suicide Prevention Institute, UNC Rural, and other experts in mental health and suicide prevention. 

The participating teams represent urban, suburban, and rural areas covering every region of North Carolina. Seventeen of the 24 counties have not previously participated in a Carolina Across 100 program, moving the initiative closer to its goal of implementing programs in all 100 counties. Read the full list and view the map.

“The University is eager to bring communities together from across North Carolina to enhance our work and foster collaboration to improve mental health and reduce suicide in our state. Carolina Across 100’s work will build partnerships and create new opportunities for sharing ideas to address this critical issue.” 

—UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz

Teams will meet for a kickoff at the end of August and for their first forum at UNC-Chapel Hill in late October. Over the course of the next year, the 15 teams will meet in Chapel Hill for a series of forums to work toward developing their own goals to improve mental health supports and reduce suicides. These forums will offer participating teams the opportunity to learn from one another and from experts in community collaboration, public health, and suicide prevention. The Carolina Across 100 team and UNC Suicide Prevention Institute will also provide coaching, technical assistance and additional resources to teams throughout the program. 

“We are humbled by the tremendous response from communities across North Carolina dedicated to working together on improving mental health,” said UNC School of Government professor Anita Brown-Graham. “We are eager to begin this work together and we are committed to helping each community develop its own evidence-informed strategies.”   

Carolina Across 100 is a five-year initiative, coordinated by the ncIMPACT Initiative, seeking to support community-driven recovery and build sustainable efforts in all 100 counties by providing human resources, data insights, coaching, facilitation, coordination efforts, and program design. Our State, Our Wellbeing is the second major program in this larger initiative, following the Our State, Our Work program started in 2022. 

Carolina Across 100 is a five-year initiative charged by Chancellor Guskiewicz and housed at the School of Government’s ncIMPACT Initiative. This pan-University effort, guided by the Carolina Engagement Council, will form meaningful partnerships with communities in all 100 North Carolina counties to respond to challenges stemming from or exacerbated by COVID-19. 

The UNC Suicide Prevention Institute began in July 2022 to research and deploy scalable, evidence-informed prevention interventions for suicide. Housed at the School of Medicine, the Suicide Prevention Institute has more than 40 UNC researchers across a variety of disciplines including psychiatry, psychology, social work, and education. 

The ncIMPACT Initiative is a statewide initiative launched by the UNC School of Government in 2017 to help local communities use data and evidence to improve conditions and inform decision-making. 

**If you or someone you know are thinking about suicide, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.**