More than 1,000 backpacks representing the number of college students who die by suicide each year will be on display at NIU’s MLK Commons on Thursday, Oct. 4 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Send Silence Packing is a powerful event that provides a strong visual reminder of the impact that suicide has on all of us through stories and examples,” said Brooke Ruxton, executive director of NIU’s Counseling and Consultation Services.
Angela Kaminski, NIU clinical social worker and outreach coordinator, shared the sentiment.
“When someone sees the number of backpacks on campus and is able to see how many people are impacted by suicide it will leave an impression,” Kaminski said. “Our hope is to have both students and staff be impacted in a way that the event becomes a dialogue starter and an open door to reach out to others.”
Send Silence Packing is presented by Active Minds, a nonprofit organization that empowers students to speak openly about mental health in order to educate others and encourages them to seek help. Since its inaugural display a decade ago, Send Silence Packing has reached more than 900,000 visitors at colleges and universities with messages of hope and help.
“Suicide is not easily talked about but we know impacts so many,” Kaminski said. “Send Silence Packing is important for our campus because it helps raise awareness and start the conversation about something so serious for our students.”
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-24 year-olds, and nationally, suicide rates have been on the rise. Kaminski said locally, the NIU Active Minds chapter has seen an increase in membership as well as requests from other student organizations who are seeking information and on-campus programming.
“Stigma prevents people from speaking up and it stops someone from seeking help or telling others what they are feeling,” Kaminski said. “An event like this can help our students struggling with suicidal thoughts to know they are not alone and there is help available.
Many of the backpacks were donated by families who lost a loved one to suicide. Visitors are invited to walk among the Send Silence Packing backpacks, see the photographs and read the stories attached to them.
“I hope the NIU community learns about resources available to help a friend or loved one,” Ruxton said. “This event encourages conversation across campus about a topic that impacts so many of us yet so few talk about it.”
Helping Huskies Thrive is a three-year grant funded suicide prevention initiative sponsored by Counseling and Consultation Services in Student Affairs and the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education in the COE. October begins the final year that the university has this grant and as a result, HHT is hosting a wide array of events in the fall and spring semesters. For more information, call 815-753-1206 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.