More than 1,000 backpacks were laid out on North Central College’s Jefferson Lawn on Tuesday to help raise awareness about mental health struggles and suicide. Send Silence Packing is a traveling exhibit brought to college campuses around the country for the cause.
About the Exhibit
“So, in this exhibit, Active Minds has set out over a thousand backpacks and that represents approximately the number of college students who take their lives each year, 1,100. That used to be the number it’s probably up from there by now. So, each of the backpacks has been donated by a family, to honor a loved one who’s died in that horrific way,” said Linda Pacha, founder of Nick’s Network of Hope.
Attached to many backpacks were photos and information shared by loved ones about the students they represent.
“We lost our son, Nick, to suicide in 2013, he was a college student. Specifically, he was a freshman at the University of Minnesota. Back in 2017, when we brought the backpack exhibit to Naperville, they were so wonderful to create a backpack with my son’s story and picture,” said Pacha.
North Central’s Impact
This is the second time North Central College has hosted the exhibit and the Dyson Wellness Center is one of the key factors in bringing it back.
“It’s so critical to just bring awareness to students, staff and faculty, and our community. The second leading cause of death is suicide for college students. So, for us to have any way to remind our students and our community of how critical it is to kind of have each other’s backs,” said Tatiana Sifri, director of the Dyson Wellness Center.
You’re Not Alone
Besides the backpacks, signs were posted reminding those who passed that they have value and can find help if they are struggling.
“The biggest struggle is reaching out and often so many people, and this is not just college students. This is just being a human being on the planet. It’s hard. Life can be really hard. And we don’t speak enough about that,” said Sifri. “And it’s shameful sometimes for people to speak about having thoughts about suicide. So, for us, we want to put it out here. We want people to have conversation. We want them to know they’re not alone when they have those thoughts and that there’s tons of resources.”
Naperville News 17’s Anthony Yench reports.
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