By MAYA PAGE
Sept. 14, 2017 was no ordinary day for the students of the Fairleigh Dickinson Florham Campus, as they woke up to 1,000 backpacks strewn across the Library Lawn. The backpacks represented the number of college students who take their own lives each year in the United States.
Students walked to class amid the hundreds of backpacks, remembering those lost to suicide. FDU used this experience to spread awareness and acknowledge Suicide Prevention Awareness Month with the help of the traveling exhibit, “Send Silence Packing.”
Active Minds is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to raising mental health awareness among college students. They debuted their tour exhibit, “Send Silence Packing,” with the FDU Madison campus, and will continue to take it to eleven other colleges throughout the U.S. from September through October.
The backpacks used in the exhibit are donated by families of college students who have committed suicide. The bags have personal notes attached to them with stories and photos of the victims to truly bring faces to this tragic reality.
This nonprofit has hopes that their traveling exhibit will empower college students to seek help for themselves or a loved one.
“They’re [the students] taking information, making a pledge to speak out and asking how they can help. Suicide is the second-largest cause of death among college students. This helps spread the message and fight the stigma,” stated Josh Ratner, the program manager for “Send Silence Packing.”
News 12 New Jersey covered the event in Florham Park and students who spoke with reporters stated that the event made them feel encouraged to speak up. This experience brought the community closer together and allowed conversation about the stigmatized issue to be more open and free.
According to the National Data on Campus Suicide and Depression, one in every 12 college students makes a suicide plan. That means that, in an average classroom,
there are at least two students who have thoughts of suicide. Being conscious of that fact and being aware of peers could lead to saving a life.
Research also states that more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from all other medical illnesses combined. These statistics prove the gravity of the issue and why it is so important to talk about depression. Students need to know that there is no shame in asking for help. Universities need to make mental health talks a priority, even when it may be scary or messy. The taboo of suicide has resulted in a lack of education on the subject.
FDU Madison’s Psychological Services Counselor Nicole Peluso helped to bring “Send Silence Packing” to the campus, and said she thought it was very successful.
“I’m taken aback by the response to it,” Peluso said in an interview with the Daily Record. “Everyone is impressed. I heard one student just say, ‘wow.’ To see something like this, a visual statistic of all the students who have passed away, it’s really meaningful.”
Although September has passed and National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is over, suicide and mental illness should be recognized every day. College students are one of the most vulnerable groups of people because it is expected that these are the years to have fun and be happy. However, that is far from the truth.
Even if someone isn’t showing signs of depression, they may be hiding it inside because they are scared. No one wants to be that one person who is struggling while everyone else seems to be doing great. Things are not always what they seem and everyone can experience stress differently and at different levels. It is normal to not be okay and no one should feel alone because of it.
To get help on campus, the Student Counseling and Psychological Services o ers personal, free, and confidential counseling to help students work through problems and develop coping skills.