Send Silence Packing raises mental health awareness on campus

“We’re trying to inspire action behind suicide prevention”

Sofi Shlepakov/ Daily Collegian (2022)

Sofi Shlepakov/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Sofi Shlepakov, Assistant News Editor

Trigger Warning: This piece contains sensitive topics of harm and suicide

Approximately 1,000 backpacks were scattered next to the campus pond at the University of Massachusetts campus on Friday in part of Send Silence Packing’s suicide awareness and prevention mission.

SSP is a program of Active Minds, a nonprofit organization with an award-winning display that travels to colleges and universities across the country to promote  suicide prevention. Each backpack has its own story of someone who had a loved one die by suicide.

SSP tour coordinator Aaron Plattus said that the program has been on the road since 2008 and that all of the backpacks and stories within them have been donated by families, friends and loved ones.

“We’re trying to raise awareness about suicide and change the culture around talking about suicide and mental health as a whole,” Plattus said. “We’re trying to inspire action behind suicide prevention.”

Arsema Kifle, a sophomore political science major, said the public display drew her in.

“I saw the backpacks and knew immediately what they were trying to depict, and I stopped to read because the students are a lot like the students that go here at UMass,” Kifle said. “I wanted to stop and read because their lives and their legacies are still alive.”

Plattus says that he feels it’s hard to walk through this area and not stop and see it. “It’s almost allegorical in a way because a lot more people than you’d think have been personally touched or impacted by suicide or lost someone close to them,” Plattus said.

“I think this is a good visual representation of that,” he added.

Hunter Realini, a senior psychology major, said that she thought it was a really powerful movement.

“I definitely think it’s hard and shocking to see, but it’s necessary,” Realini said. “Suicide is not a pretty thing; it’s not something that should be hidden.”

“I believe that in all colleges people really struggle with their mental health, whether it’s with classes or their friends or family,” Realini continued. “This is a really popular age for people to start their mental health and how it can be deteriorating.”

UMass counseling and other on-campus resources were at the event. For anyone struggling with their mental health, resources are available on the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health page.

Sofi Shlepakov can be reached at [email protected]