By Steven Adamo
Eleven hundred backpacks were on display on campus Tuesday to help visualize the number of college-aged students who die each year from suicide.
Rob Schicker of Send Silence Packing, the program in charge of the backpack display, said the number of backpacks on display represent the 1,300-1,500 college aged suicides that happen every year.
Volunteers weaved through the sea of backpacks and provided observers with suicide facts and information.
“Most of the backpacks are donated by the families. Some of them that are heavily decorated are the actual backpacks from students who have taken their own life,” Vanessa Guerrero, a psychology major and volunteer for the event, said.
Active Minds, a non-profit group that created the Send Silence Packing program, has over 400 chapters on college campuses nationwide. Active Minds serve as a liaison between students and mental health professionals.
The Send Silence Packing program was created to bring awareness to these issues using visual aids.
“This event is to bring awareness of mental health because a lot of times people don’t want to talk about it, and you don’t see the impact until you see the numbers,” Guerrero said.
Half of the backpacks had stories attached to them. Some of them were written by family members, friends or people who were in relationships with the victims.
A common thread among most of them was the desire to have done something more to help. John Raasch, a mental health counselor at the Student Health Center, helped bring the backpack display to campus. Raasch provides personal counseling for students who are experiencing life crises.
They provide free coverage Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and close at 2 p.m. on Fridays.
Other on-campus resources include the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), Psychology Club and Students Against Substance Abuse (SASA).
“An Active Minds chapter on campus would address some of these needs more specifically and make these issues more visible,” Raasch said. Anyone interested in starting an Active Minds chapter at ELAC can contact chapter manager Laura Horne from Active Minds at www. activeminds.org.
Their site provides information on what signs to look for and how to reach out. If you or someone you know is in crisis, the national suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273- 8255 (TALK).
The number is available 24 hours a day, and there is always somebody available to answer the call.