Hundreds of backpacks, each telling the story of a life lost to suicide, lined New York City’s historic Flatiron Plaza Thursday. The Send Silence Packing exhibit looks to shine a light on the 1,100 college students that take their own lives each year.
Active Minds, a nonprofit working to engage young people to change the conversation and perception about mental health, kicked off the traveling public education display last month. Carolyn Bradford, the organization’s Regional Chapter Manager for the Northeast, says Send Silence Packing was conceived by founder Alison Malmon.
“She said, ‘We have to make this happen,’” shared Bradford. “‘We have to show through some kind of visual representation how many lives are lost to suicide in the college population each year.’”
Malmon has personally been affected by suicide, as Brian (her only sibling/brother) took his life. Despite being an all-star student at Columbia University, the 20-year-old struggled with depression and psychosis. He was later diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.
According to Bradford, Active Minds’ mission is to let those struggling know that they’re not alone. “The majority of people lost to suicide each year [have] a mental health disorder. They usually don’t know how to reach out for help; either they’re scared they’ll be judged or they’re just not sure what resources are available to them,” she stated.
The 1,100 backpack display will be traveling to 13 cities in five states. Bradford revealed that each Send Silence Packing exhibit sees about 1,000 to 1,500 visits. And in a large city like NYC—closer to 2,000.
Currently, 1 in 4 students live with a mental health disorder. Among 18 to 24-year-olds, the likelihood of suffering from psychological illness is higher than in adults. However, young people have the lowest rates of asking for help. Get the conversation started.
What can you do?
- Speak out against bullying.
- Write an article for your school paper about the importance of mental health.
- Take part (or start if your school doesn’t have one) an Active Minds chapter promoting awareness about mental health.