Send Silence Packing Visits U of M


Silence swept the normally chaotic Diag on Oct. 10. Students walked lethargically, gazing at the moving display of backpacks for Send Silence Packing, a national traveling exhibit, and their touching contribution to National Mental Health Awareness Day.

Send Silence Packing represents the average 1,100 college students lost to suicide every year. They travel across the country to colleges and display thousands of backpacks with personal stories and pictures alongside of them. The stories come from family members and friends, who donate them to show that the students lost to suicide are not just a statistic, but instead, loved ones. The program’s goal is to raise awareness of the impact of suicide and get students the help they need.

In the middle of the Diag, resource tables are set up with information about the event. Ellen Paquet, a student at the University of Michigan, advocates for the program. “As someone who has attempted suicide in the past, it’s a very interesting event for me because there is definitely a lot of emotional baggage that comes with it,” Paquet said. “But for me, it means setting it up so that next year we won’t have quite so many backpacks to put out.”

Send Silence Packing is sponsored by Active Minds, a nonprofit organization that helps to raise awareness about mental health to college students. Send Silence Packing was founded by Alison Malmon in 2003 after losing her brother to suicide, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the program actually took off.

Active Minds gives people information about signs and symptoms, where to go for help, and why mental health awareness is important. They provide students, faculty, and families with links to mental health resources such as Bring Change to Mind and Anxiety and Depression Association of America. They hope to end the stigma surrounding mental health illnesses.

Taylor Tresatti, the Tour Coordinator, is a part of this program because of her personal and educational experiences as well as her love for traveling. 

“[Reactions are] different day to day. It’s definitely always really impactful and emotional,” Tresatti said. “It’s really encouraging on each site having people feel comfortable to share their stories, personal stories, and people that they know, asking how to help themselves and how to help a friend.”

The University of Michigan was Send Silence Packing’s eighth stop on their Fall 2017 tour. They plan to visit four more colleges: Saginaw Valley State University on Oct. 12, Ohio State University on Oct. 18, Carroll University on Oct. 20, and Iowa State University on Oct. 24.

Tresatti believes it has been a mostly positive reaction from all of the campuses. “I see students stand up and kind of have the conversations amongst each other that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise if this event wasn’t here,” Tresatti said.