To raise awareness on the impact of suicide and mental health, Active Minds, a nonprofit organization dedicated to shedding light on students who suffer in silence with suicidal thoughts and depression, visited campus with a clear visual of their message.

One thousand backpacks peppered University Park as part of a traveling exhibit focused on raising awareness on mental health and suicide. (Maya Hood / The Poly Post)

On April 15, Send Silence Packing peppered the University Park with 1,000 backpacks symbolizing students lost to suicide — of which 250 represented stories of hope, resilience, and stories and photos from families and friends.

Nancy Robles, director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), said the backpacks create a striking image.

“It’s a pretty powerful exhibit and part of the goal of it is to make sure that people are aware and that if they see anything or hear anything, they speak up and people know the resources that are available,” Robles said. 

A variety of mental health resources, including CAPS, the Disability Resource Center, the Bronco Wellness Student Center, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Tri-City Mental Health Center and others were at the event to educate students and inspire action to prevent suicide. 

Hayley Harnicher, program manager of Active Minds, talked about the importance of connecting people to resources that can help with mental health. 

“The goal is to remind them [students] that they’re not alone, and remind them that two-thirds of people, if they are feeling suicidal or depressed, they’re going to ask a friend first, so remind them they can learn about mental health resources that are available to them,” Harnicher said.  

Students gathered around the backpacks while reading narratives and looking at photos of students who suffered and recognizing the positive impact they had on their loved ones. (Maya Hood / The Poly Post)

Students gathered around the backpacks while reading narratives and looking at photos of students who suffered and recognizing the positive impact they had on their loved ones. 

Around the exhibit there were signs with trigger warnings, letting people know that the content being displayed is about suicide.

Some students who noticed the signs decided not to go anywhere near the site. However, other students chose to engage with the display because of how important the topic of mental health is. 

Andrea Ramirez, a third-year psychology major, said she appreciates that mental health is getting more attention because it isn’t something that people talk about a lot.

“I just think it’s good to always have a reminder of what it looks like, just to have an example of warning signs and just to see that normal people could have it,” Ramirez said. “You don’t have to look a certain way to have it or to have these kinds of thoughts; it kind of occurs in everyday situations.” 

For more information about Send Silence Packing and other resources, visit https://www.activeminds.org/programs/send-silence-packing/.

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