$25 million gift creates UNC Suicide Prevention Institute

William ’75 and Dana Starling have pledged $25 million to the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry to establish the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute. This donation will allow UNC experts to provide innovative and compassionate care to North Carolina patients while supporting research to better understand the neurobiology of suicide and how it can be prevented.

Dr. Patrick Sullivan will serve as director of the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute. Yeargen Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Genetics, Sullivan is a world-renowned expert in psychiatric genetics and will lead a team committed to improving outcomes for patients with mental illness.

“It’s a critical situation,” Sullivan said. “Many measures of mental health have deteriorated over the past five years. The bottom line is that across the board, many people are struggling – rates of anxiety and depression have skyrocketed, and the impact on adolescents and their development has been particularly massive. And one of the major red flags is attempted suicide and people who die by suicide.

UNC’s Suicide Prevention Institute will focus on three main components: causality and neurobiology, clinical prevention implementation and awareness, and community engagement and outreach. The first is a longer-term research and development intention. The second aims to improve clinical outcomes at UNC Health in the short term and more broadly across North Carolina afterward. The third will link the Institute to individuals, community stakeholders and other sites nationally and internationally, helping experts identify groups at risk in the ever-changing landscape of suicidality.

Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, Assad Meymandi Professor Emeritus and Chair of the Carolina Department of Psychiatry, said Starling’s donation has the potential to change the mental health landscape in North Carolina and beyond.

“What I am most grateful for is that I believe a donation of this impact will transform how we are able to deliver cutting-edge care that will change the trajectory and outcomes for people with the disease. mental and having suicidal thoughts. “said Meltzer-Brody. “The goal is that we will be able to develop both predictive methods and clinical interventions – this is a partnership with scientists, psychiatrists and clinical teams using UNC Health resources to bring them together to identify who is at risk and intervene clinically to change outcomes.

“We believe we will be able to develop a statewide model that will also be a national model,” Meltzer-Brody said. “There is nothing like it available, and this gift will transform how we are able to provide care that can eventually be exported throughout the UNC health system and statewide as model of care.”

“Bill and Dana have my deepest gratitude for making this truly special commitment to help families who have experienced the deepest tragedy of losing a loved one,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said. “Under the leadership of Patrick Sullivan and Samantha Meltzer-Brody, our experts at UNC Health and the Department of Psychiatry are poised to make our university a world leader in research, education, and patient care and families struggling with mental illness. There is no more urgent need than this, and we are grateful to the Starlings for turning their grief into a selfless gift to UNC’s Suicide Prevention Institute that will benefit many more.

The Starling gift was made in memory of the couple’s sons, Tyler and Gregory, who both died by suicide.

“Our two children are gone, and it’s important to recognize their wonderful, short lives,” said William Starling. “I don’t know what else to do but to help other families who may have difficulty with their own children later on. We want to recognize our children, and this is a special way of doing it.

“It feels good to give back to a great cause,” Starling added. “The Suicide Prevention Institute is something that needs to be done – it’s a very high priority and it will go beyond us or any donation. Our world is full of uncertainties and hopefully some stability will help people in the future better cope with mental health issues. This is a crisis all over the world, and Dana and I are very happy to be able to support this very important initiative.

As a Carolina alumnus, Starling was especially grateful to connect with a world expert like Sullivan who was leading from Chapel Hill.

“Pat is an amazing person,” Starling said. “After the tragedy last year with our eldest son Gregory, I got to meet Pat and spend an hour walking around campus, which is one of my favorite things to do, and got to know him. very well during this period. I had the feeling that what he wanted to accomplish was going to be revolutionary and significant.

“We hope that starting this institute will be a very important initiative, which will not only help people at UNC, but across the country.”

“We are extremely grateful to Bill and Dana for their commitment to such critical work,” said Dr. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health and Dean of the UNC School of Medicine. “Their spirit of generosity in the face of overwhelming tragedy is an inspiration to us all. This donation will allow UNC Health and the UNC Department of Psychiatry to lead the way at a time when we face an unprecedented mental health crisis.