UCSB Active Minds and the Mental Wellness Center will host an event titled Send Silence Packing on October 12 on the Student Resource Building (SRB) lawn from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Active Minds, a nationwide nonprofit organization aiming to change the stigma surrounding mental illness and encourage students to seek help, debuted the event at the National Mall in Washington D.C. in 2008. Since then, more than 320,000 people in 98 cities throughout the country have attended Send Silence Packing. The event displays 1,100 backpacks to represent the 1,100 college students who lose their lives to suicide each year. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students.
Active Minds staff advisor and Associate Director of Student Mental Health Coordination Services Ryan Sims said the host organizations have worked hard to make the event possible.
“The event really has been three years in the making,” Sims said. “Active Minds has partnered with Mental Wellness Center to fundraise over $5,000 to put the event on, which is something we are very proud of.”
Santa Barbara Mental Wellness Center CEO Annmarie Cameron said universities have to “compete” to host a Send Silence Packing event.
“The process of getting Send Silence Packing to come to UCSB has taken three years,” Cameron said. “To qualify, the university itself has to provide adequate emotional support for the students that are impacted by the exhibit and UCSB’s mental health services are exceptional for this type of event.”
C.A.P.S. Director Jeanne Stanford said she hopes seeing backpacks at the event will “make it real” for students that suicide can affect their peers.
“I hope the message that people will take away is that we are all affected by suicide,” Stanford said. “Talking to your friend if you see that they’re struggling and knowing how to help someone struggling is so important for college students.”
Sims said he believes the “powerful display” will prompt those passing by to consider what the backpacks represent.
“Many of the backpacks were created by friends, family members and partners of those that have passed away and include the student’s personal stories, pictures and treasured personal belongings,” Sims said. “I’m most looking forward to UCSB students pausing for a moment, taking this all in and thinking about who might be writing their story if they’re considering suicide as a way of ending their pain.”
Fourth-year sociology major Lauren Peterson said she will attend the event because she struggled with depression and anxiety her first year at UCSB, but hesitated to seek out metal health services in fear of others thinking less of her.
“Mental health stigmas prevented me from seeking help or even talking to anyone about my depression and anxiety,” Peterson said. “Once I was able to talk to others, their acceptance and drive to learn more about mental health was so relieving and helped me greatly.”
Due to the sensitive nature of this event, Sims said C.A.P.S. will provide psychologists for the event.
“Everyone will be impacted uniquely, and having these psychologists on the day of is a cornerstone of being selected as a school to host,” Sims said.
Stanford said Send Silence Packing will serve as a “kickoff event” for UC Student Association’s upcoming mental health campaign, #HowAreYou.
“Most people that are considering suicide do want to talk about it. Something as simple as ‘how are you’ can really help someone that is struggling with a mental illness,” Stanford said.
Active Minds will host their first informational meeting on Tuesday in the SRB multipurpose room at 6 p.m. for students interested in the organization.