Event raises awareness for suicide prevention

Students examine a display of 1,100 backpacks lining the ground around the Amphitheater March 17. The display is part of the Send Silence Packing event in remembrance of students who have committed suicide and to raise awareness for mental health issues.

Thousands of backpacks surrounded the ground around the Amphitheater March 16 to help students “send silence packing” and raise awareness for suicide among college students.

A number of organizations joined Active Minds to help put on the event, Send Silence Packing. This is the first time UNA has hosted this event, which other campuses nationwide have participated in.

“About half of the backpacks have stories attached to them,” said Dani Lukens, road staff member of the national non-profit organization Active Minds. “Those stories are all donated by family members or friends who have lost a loved one to suicide.”

Chloe Allen, president of the UNA chapter of Active Minds said the UNA student chapter of Active Minds started in spring 2016 with the intent of raising awareness and hoping to help prevent suicide.

“This organization not only allows for relief on suicidal thoughts, but focuses on mental health on college campuses,” Allen said. “(The organization) brings attention on how to stay healthy mentally with all that is going on during college life.”

Allen said there were many people who helped make this event possible.

“We couldn’t have done this event successfully without Student Counseling Services, SGA, Vice President of Student Affairs David Shields, the women’s soccer team, the Military and Veterans Alliance, Riverbend and The Healing Place,” she said.

Senior Taryn Dershem said she could not believe the number of backpacks hanging on campus.

“I saw all the backpacks this morning and I thought ‘wow,’” Dershem said. “I didn’t realize how many people are silent about depression. Just seeing the backpacks, alone, was extremely impactful.”