Active Minds Returns to Curb Campus Suicides

Published 5:35 pm Friday, March 4, 2022

OXFORD, Miss. – A national traveling exhibit designed to help prevent campus suicides is coming to the University of Mississippi on Monday (March 7).

The “Send Silence Packing” display containing more than 1,000 backpacks will be in the Grove that day from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (In case of rain, the display will be moved to the great room of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.) The backpacks, each with a story attached to them, represent the number of college students lost to suicide each year.

The program is designed to raise awareness about the incidence and impact of suicide, connect students to needed mental health resources, and inspire action for suicide prevention.

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“The purpose of ‘Send Silence Packing’ is to give students a visualization of how pertinent suicide has been to our demographic, also known as college students,” said Ivonne Perez, of Eugene, Oregon, a senior integrated marketing and communications major and co-president for the event. “I also think a purpose for this exhibition is to share the stories of lost ones and appreciate their legacy, rather than dwindling them down to a statistic.

“We hope that SSP starts some good conversations between students and that awareness builds for the situation.”

Hosted by the national Active Minds organization, “Send Silence Packing” annually visits 30-40 schools and communities. The all-day exhibit raises mental health awareness, inspires action for suicide prevention, connects viewers to mental health resources and jump-starts action.

The Ole Miss chapter of Active Minds hosted the event for the first time in 2018. Trained professionals from the national Active Minds organization are onsite at every display.

“Alongside the SSP exhibition, we will also be tabling, having the Active Minds executive committee and representatives from the University Counseling Center be there for students with an abundance of resources,” Perez said. “We understand the SSP can be very heavy for some students, so having that professional aid and resources is crucial to support those students, along with just the overall student body.”

Lydia Cates, a senior health care management major from Bay St. Louis and co-president of Active Minds, said her involvement with the group stems from her own personal battles with mental health, especially during her college years.

“It was something that I wanted to contribute to,” she said. “Through being involved with this organization, I hope that others can realize the significance of mental health and find the courage to seek help from mental health resources.”

The UM chapter of Active Minds also will host Mental Health Awareness Week at a later date to promote conversations about the importance of mental health and well-being.

“MHAW was very successful last year and helped us spread awareness about mental health, and we’re excited to do that again,” Perez said. “We’ve tossed around a lot of ideas, some consisting of handing out flowers on the Union Plaza, partnering with some food trucks on campus for percentage days and, hopefully, bringing back our annual painting event.”

Active Minds is a national organization, founded in 2003 by Alison Malmon, who was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania. She lost her brother to suicide and wanted to implement a way for college campuses to reduce the stigma of mental illness and encourage students who need help to seek it out.

More than 400 college chapters of the organization have been created. Active Minds has been at Ole Miss for seven years.