Photo credit: Courtney Gaither

As you walk through a sea of backpacks decorating APSU’s Morgan University Center plaza many things go through your mind.

Then you find out that each of the 1,100 backpacks represents a life lost to suicide. No longer are you walking amongst everyday backpacks but a graveyard of those who suffered from mental illness.

This event took place on Friday, April 8th by APSU’s Active Minds chapter. Send Silence Packing travels to approximately 20 colleges in the southeast on a regional tour. The event is a public education exhibit to promote the recognition of mental illness across college campuses.

“Suicide awareness and prevention is something I’m very passionate about,” said active Minds President Colton Lockhart. “I really want people to be engaged when they walk through the display.”

1100 backpacks were displayed across the plaza stretching from its concrete stairs to the entrance of APSU’s bookstore.

A majority of the backpacks were decorated with laminated stories of victims who lost their lives to suicide.

“When I first walked into the display I thought it was a field trip, then I saw the signs pertaining to suicide and started reading the pamphlet, it made me feel sad,” said freshman business major LaTica Evans said. “I started reading my second bag and they (victims) thought they didn’t belong in this world and turned to suicide, it’s just really sad.”

Active Minds was established in 2003 by Alison Malmon, a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, after she lost 22-year-old brother Brian Malmon to suicide.

Send Silence packing was first displayed in the National Mall of Washington in 2008.

“We want students to see this and make them aware of how serious of an issue suicide is on college campuses,” said Active Minds road staffer Casey O’Neill. “There is always help. We want people to be aware and to know how difficult college, and academic stressors can be.”

Display signs and resources were also exhibited to encourage those seeking help to reach out and ask questions, as well as to connect students to mental health resources and inspire action for suicide prevention.

“About 60 percent of students who need help don’t seek help,” said APSU counselor/ outreach coordinator Frank Bunner. “I hope we move towards the culture where you can say I don’t have everything together. Everyone needs to a space to talk about what’s going on, if they did maybe we wouldn’t have this many backpacks.”