BY CHRISTYANNE SAN JUAN
FRONT PAGE EDITOR
Photo courtesy of The Chaparral. Send Silence Packing arrived at College of the Desert to spread awareness around mental health and suicide prevention.
College of the Desert raised mental health awareness on April 25 when the campus hosted Send Silence Packing, an acclaimed touring exhibit that aims to inspire action for suicide prevention.
The all-day exhibit showcased over four hundred backpacks, with each backpack focusing on the personal story of a college-aged individual that was a victim of suicide. Fifteen to twenty backpacks that were part of the Send Silence Packing exhibit were donated by the victim’s families. During the showcase, students, teachers and faculty were encouraged to walk among the backpacks and read the stories. Local resources, such as the National Society on Mental Illness, HomeConnect, Borrego Health, SafeHouse and EachMindMatters also held booths at the event for students to learn where they can reach out for support.
“The goal of Send Silence Packing is to open a dialogue around mental health,” said Courtney Burke, a member of Active Minds, the organization behind the exhibit. “We have found that on college campuses, the perceived stigma around mental health is often stronger than actual stigma, and we want people to feel comfortable reaching out to others for support.”
This sentiment was felt by many viewers of Send Suicide Packing. A COD student who did not want to be named expressed the impact that the exhibit had on him, “I always felt like I was alone in my struggle with my mental health and with suicide. Seeing all these stories and seeing how understanding everyone is, is making me feel like I’ll be strong enough to get help.”
The Send Suicide Packing exhibit tours the country every spring and fall, and visits roughly fifteen to twenty schools located primarily in the Midwest and Northeast during each tour. There is a rolling application basis for colleges and universities to host the event, and the event is hosted through a joint effort between the college’s local chapter of Send Silence Packing and the primary organization. Students and faculty provide resources for the exhibit, roughly amounting to a five thousand dollar cost. Additionally, the local chapter connects Send Suicide Packing to local resources that will be present during the event.
Send Suicide Packing was first unveiled in 2008 by Active Minds, a nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for students. The organization aims to empower a new generation to change the conversation around mental health through a number of programs as well as a national network of over 450 chapters. Since its an inaugural display, Send Silence Packing has reached approximately 946,710 visitors in over two hundred cities.
If you are struggling with your mental health or with suicidal thoughts, visit Student Health Services, located in the Cravens Student Services Center on the first floor or call 760-776-7211. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is also available for students. The number is 800-273-8255.
If you are in need of immediate care, visit the Riverside County Mental Health Urgent Care Facility in Palm Springs at 2500 N Palm Canyon Dr., Suite A4 Palm Springs, CA 92262 or call 442-268-7000.
If you feel more comfortable texting rather than speaking over the phone, download the What’s Up Safehouse app, available on Apple and Android devices, or text 844-204-0880.