RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – UW-River Falls (UWRF) students began their Thanksgiving break early. It’s all in a move to help students focus on their mental health. As First News at Nine’s Michelle Stangler reports, this comes after the campus experienced recent tragedies.

UWRF student, Carson Holcomb, says, “We’ve had the loss of three students and the staff member. It’s kind of interesting how that affects you, even if you don’t know them.”

Another UWRF student, Ian Jeffrey, says, “I can definitely say it’s taken a toll on the campus. It’s been kind of feeling that kind of a sadder vibe.”

An empty UW-River Falls campus. In part because of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday but also to aid in supporting students and staff that have experienced unexpected losses. 

Amber Rappl, a UWRF student, says, “Even if they didn’t directly know the students, they can still take time to really like process like maybe external stresses, because a lot of the students that I work with and talk to on a regular basis like everyone’s just dealing with a lot right now and there’s so many external stresses going on outside of just being a full-time student or working part-time jobs.”

The extended break is shining a light on the resources available. “I think the more we talk about mental health and the more we encourage students to stop by instead of an appointment, I would think that we’re going to be probably pretty busy for the rest of the academic year. We had grief counselors for a couple of weeks and, but we do have the pet therapy which is ongoing.” 

Rappl adds, “So a lot of the events, especially in the last two weeks, were definitely kind of spurred in response to some of the events on campus. So, there were previously a lot of mental health resources and activities like specifically through counseling services on campus, but the frequency of the short-term has increased.” 

Students and staff also began A memorial at a university sign and gathered for a Memorial Walk as a way to remember the professor in addition to three students. 

Heather Rushfeldt, the Journey House Campus Ministry Outreach Coordinator, says, “We had a few students come by for our good food good conversation event immediately after one of the students passed away just to get away from campus and be with friendly faces.”