Starling gift establishes UNC Suicide Prevention Institute

The new institute aims to better understand causes and prevention of suicide, as well as engage and educate communities.

Bill and Dana Starling with a view of mountains in the background

The new institute aims to better understand causes and prevention of suicide, as well as engage and educate communities.

  • Please note that this article includes discussion of issues related to mental health and suicide.

William ’75 and Dana Starling have made a $25 million commitment to the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry to create the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute. This gift will empower experts at UNC to offer cutting-edge care to patients in North Carolina while also supporting research to better understand the neurobiology of suicide and how it can be prevented.

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

Funds from the Starlings’ gift will be put to immediate use to improve clinical outcomes for patients at UNC Health. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Americans between the age of 10 and 34, according to CDC data collected in 2020.

“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,” said Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “Under the leadership of Patrick Sullivan and Samantha Meltzer-Brody, our experts at UNC Health and in the Department of Psychiatry are poised to make our University a world leader in research, education and care of patients and families dealing with mental illness. There is no more urgent need than this, and we are thankful to the Starlings for turning their grief into a selfless gift to the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute that will benefit many others.”

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

“Our two children are gone, and it’s important to recognize their wonderful, short lives,” William Starling said. “I’m not sure how else to better do that than to help other families who may be struggling with their own children down the road. We want to recognize our children, and this is a special way to do that.”

Read the complete Carolina Story…Opens in new window

The Heels Care NetworkOpens in new window is a hub for UNC students, faculty and staff providing mental health and well-being resources, including links to 24/7 support, training opportunities and suicide prevention resources. If you or someone you know is in crisis or contemplating suicide, call or text 988 or visit in new window for immediate help. For additional information, visit the UNC Department of Psychiatry websiteOpens in new window.


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