How the 'Send Silence Packing' Exhibit Is Raising Suicide Awareness on College Campuses

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds. Suicide affects 1 in 12 United States college students. That statistic doesn’t account for the students struggling with suicidal thoughts. And I believe the most jaw-dropping statistic we have on young adults 18 and older affected by suicide is, the greater part of this group of people will not receive adequate or any treatment at all.

Send Silence Packing” is a national traveling exhibit about suicide awareness and prevention on college campuses. Active Minds, the organization responsible for this exhibit, connects students who are struggling and need help to mental health resources on campus. 

For this exhibit, they bring 1,000 backpacks that symbolize more than 1,100 students on college campuses who have died by suicide each year. Active Minds scatters the backpacks attached with a personal well-traveled areas of campuses, like the quad or the cafeteria. The personal stories that people can read are in memory and in honor of the loved ones who have taken their own lives. During the duration of the exhibit, Active Minds will have trained professionals on hand to assist the students.

I have seen pictures of the backpack display and the sight of that many backpacks gave me goosebumps and brought me to tears. It reminded me of when I was in college. Practically everybody had a backpack. There were different shapes and colors, like a representation of all the different types of personalities studying at that university. When I saw the photo of the exhibit, I imaged the different college students wearing those backpacks who died by suicide. I could have been one of those backpacks. But reaching out to someone helped.

I know what suicidal ideation is like. I have bipolar I and have thought about ending my life numerous times when I was swimming in the depression of the bipolar spectrum. I first thought about suicide in middle school. I even had a plan. “Why?” you might ask. For some teenagers, acceptance is often important for their self-esteem, as well as feeling loved. I was lacking in both areas. 

The “Send Silence Packing” project opens the conversation with college students about their thoughts on suicide and the mental health issues they may be experiencing. I think this will be instrumental in saving lives.

Even for students on campus who have never had suicidal thoughts run through their mind, I think education is key in helping our next generations get out from under the crushing boulder of suicidal ideation and tearing down the stigma surrounding mental health.

For more information or a campus participating in the “Send Silence Packing” project here.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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