An array of backpacks covered the HUB’s first floor Wednesday as part of Send Silence Packing, a traveling display representing the 1,100 college students nationwide lost to suicide each year.
Active Minds, a non-profit organization advocating mental health with young adults, hosted the event. About 20 students from Penn State’s chapter volunteered, providing information to visitors.
“The people from the headquarters of Active Minds bring 1,100 backpacks throughout college campuses nationwide,” says Active Minds Public Relations Co-Chair Casey O’Neill. “They’re on a northeast tour, which is why they stopped here today.”
Many of the multi-colored backpacks were decorated with personal stories and photos of a college student lost to suicide. Tall, white poster boards also stood among the display. The boards stated facts about suicide and depression, such as that 44 percent of college students have felt so depressed it was hard to function.
O’Neill says the backpacks serve as a visual representation of college students because, as students, we carry backpacks every day.
“These are 1,100 backpacks, but those were 1,100 lives lost every single year,” O’Neill says.
Active Minds hoped the event would raise awareness of the severity of the issue of suicide while honoring the legacy of fallen students, according to O’Neill.
“Every story is different, but the stories are about someone we lost far too soon to suicide,” he says.
Penn State donated two backpacks to Send Silence Packing, representing O’Neill’s friend and Active Minds President Ally Fiorenzi’s cousin who were both lost to suicide.
“The goal of this event is to make people aware of suicide prevention on college campuses and for people to get the appropriate help,” O’Neill says. “They can educate themselves and help educate others.”
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, and Active Minds is aiming to reduce the number by encouraging open dialogue when students need help.
The event included informational tables and a poster for students to sign to pledge being health advocates. A big book with pages signed by students from other universities also travels with the display. A designated Penn State page was open for people to write words of encouragement inside, according to Fiorenzi.
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is an on-campus resource with information on mental health and services for students who feel they are in need.