UD President Eric Spina and SGA President Drew Moyer hold a backpack from the “Send Silence Packing” display on KU Central Mall. Photo courtesy of Grace DiPierro.
Grace Dipierro | Staff Writer
Over 1,000 backpacks lined the lawn of KU Central Mall Monday, each one representing someone who took their life. The “Send Silence Packing” traveling exhibit kicked off UD’s Suicide Prevention Week with the early morning display.
Mental health is something that every single person deals with in some way. Physical health, including injuries or the flu, are often talked about, but the thoughts and feelings truly impacting people are often forgotten.
For Alexis Taylor, a senior psychology and criminal justice double major, one of the main takeaways from the exhibit was that it is more than okay for people to reach out for help.
Mental health is often thought of as an invisible disease, but the physical, mental and emotional effects that come from poor mental health are very real and tangible, according to Taylor.
“Being able to visualize the impacts of suicide is so important,” Taylor said. “Being able to see a physical example of it is so powerful and important for the community.”
Associate Director of the Counselor Center Dr. Erin Shiner mentioned how powerful the “Send Silence Packing” exhibit is for the Counseling Center.
“We understand first hand how many students get to the point where life feels so dark and hopeless that they consider ending their lives,” Shiner said. “We want everyone to know that there is hope, there is recovery and there is healing. We encourage people to get the help and support that they need.”
Junior biochemistry major and member of UD Emergency Medical Services Anneliese Fisher commented on the role of UD EMS in assisting the community with issues of mental health. UD EMS is a free emergency medical services organization composed of undergraduate volunteers.
“It is really important to me that I am a part of an organization that can respond to students in crisis,” Fisher said.
Junior EMS member Kate Sebastian echoed Fisher’s sentiments, adding that she values her ability to help students, faculty and staff with mental health emergencies on campus.
Melissa Longino, assistant vice president for health and wellbeing and executive director of Campus Recreation, explained:
“The more that we can break down those barriers, connect students to resources and show that they’re supported, the more we can tell students that their life has meaning, they’re seen and valued.”
Longino went on to say that the “Send Silence Packing” exhibit is only the start of a long, sustained effort to address mental health on campus.
“Every year we try to tackle mental health in new and creative ways to show students that we are here,” Longino said.
In addition to Suicide Prevention Week, there are many efforts that are on-going throughout the year, including services provided with Co-Pilots, the Counseling Center’s “Let’s Talk” sessions and Campus Recreation’s PATH to 30.
Longino stressed the fact that UD’s efforts will go beyond this week. UD faculty, staff and organizations on campus will be available as resources even after the activities conclude.
In an address to students on KU Central Mall, President Spina spoke to the resilience and dedication of UD students looking after one another.
“I’ve been incredibly impressed since I came here five years ago because UD students are more active and supportive around issues of mental health than any other college campus that I’ve seen.
“We have to be willing to talk about it, to support each other, to reach out, get help and provide hope to those who need it,” Spina said.
Student Government Association President Drew Moyer also gave remarks surrounding mental health, sharing the personal impact suicide has had on his life.
Moyer’s first-year roommate took his own life during their first few months on campus. This is what sparked Moyer’s passion and dedication to providing resources for mental health issues.
In response to the exhibit, Moyer reflected on the role current students can have.
“One of the most impactful things you can do as an individual is care about the people around you,” Moyer said. “What I mean by this is when you ask someone how they are doing, mean it. Check on your friends, make sure they are doing OK and let them know they are not alone.”
“Together we can work to end the stigma around mental health, and the key is doing it together… Today is the day to never give up,” Moyer added.