Active Minds Brings ‘Send Silence Packing’ to Pitt
By: Cassie Maz
On Friday, Active Minds, a national nonprofit organization that aims to facilitate conversations about mental health, set up an exhibit on the Cathedral of Learning’s lawn called Send Silence Packing. Pitt is the company’s fourth stop on the exhibit’s nationwide tour. The display of over 1,000 backpacks, which will come at least 16 more colleges and universities this year, represents the tremendous number of college students who fall victim to suicide each year.
Kama, a sophomore at Pitt, worked with other members of Active Minds’ Pitt Chapter over the summer to bring the Send Silence Packing exhibit to Pitt. Kama hopes the exhibit will open up the conversation about suicide: “The stigma around suicide is what often holds students back from reaching out for help…When you’re alone with such turmoil, it can just perpetuate the situation.”
Some backpacks contain stories donated by loved ones of specific students who have passed. Active Minds is also accepting backpacks from people who want to share their stories, to help humanize the statistics. Kadi, who tours with the national organization, explained that the display varies based on where it is located. The large lawn between the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Chapel allowed for an expansive display resembling a sun, with rays of personal stories stretching out from an inner circle of backpacks. Kadi and her fellow organizers hope the display will encourage students and faculty alike to discuss mental health and seek help when they need it.
When asked what she hopes students get out of the display, Kama emphasized that it’s okay to not be okay. “It’s okay to talk about such a heavy topic…The more we talk about [suicide], the more it becomes acceptable to feel these feelings, so people aren’t scared to reach out to help… we just want to be a support system to students on campus.”
Kadi highlighted that the vast display “is hard to miss…and that’s kind of the point.” Kadi mentioned that after the exhibit comes to a university, there is an average 3% increase in people reaching out to campus mental health services.
Despite the increased awareness the display may give to campus counseling services, accessibility is still a hurdle for many students. Though Pitt offers online message boards, group and individual sessions are limited. Full bookings may imply that many students are aware of available services, but they also mean students who need help immediately can be kept on long waitlists. Two students from Duquesne expressed similar concerns about their own university’s counseling center. “I know that our counselors are booked full,” one student said. “If you want to go see them…it’s a long wait.”
Listen here for full interviews with Kama, Kadi, and passersby.
Active Minds is headed to Duquesne University next. Their exhibit will be on display Tuesday, September 17th. For more information about Active Minds, you can visit their website here.
For more information about Pitt’s chapter, you can visit their Facebook page here.
If you or a loved one need to reach out about mental health, you can learn more about local services here.