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Active Minds uses bags to raise awareness about suicide

An Active Minds

The rainy weather wasn’t the only thing creating a somber scene for students walking past the Student Union on Monday.

Around 1,100 backpacks lined the walkway between the Student Union and the Union Annex Monday to represent the 1,100 college students who commit suicide every year.

The display of backpacks is part of a larger national tour called Send Silence Packing, which was created in 2008.

The UNC chapter of Active Minds Inc., a national nonprofit organization working to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental health on college campuses, hosted the event as a part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

“This is an accessible way to learn about the issue,” said Priya Balagopal, student organizer for the event.

One out of four people have a mental illness, but some people are afraid to talk about it, Balagopal said.

The Send Silence Packing tour will visit 12 college campuses this fall.

Backpacks are accompanied with personal stories in an effort to raise awareness about the issue of suicide among college students.

Brandon Doman, a member of the road trip staff for the Active Minds Inc. national office, said people are curious when they see the bags.

“Everywhere we go, especially here, we have had a really curious and positive response,” said Doman.

Doman said the Send Silence Packing program uses backpacks as props because they connect with students.

Backpacks contain stories, Balagopal said.

“It brings to life the issue of students’ suicide,” she said.

Students were encouraged to walk through the backpacks and read the stories attached to many of the bags.

“Some of the stories are really devastating,” said Ayat Soufan, a sophomore psychology major visiting the exhibit.

“We do need to start a more active dialogue about this,” she said.


“I didn’t realize it was so prevalent with college students and on college campuses,” Braun said.

Alongside the display of backpacks were tables containing information about how to get involved in the organization and how to get help for themselves or someone else.

“Education of the public is very important because mental health events affect a lot of us either personally or through family or friends,” said Allen O’Barr, director of counseling and wellness for Campus Health Services, in an email.

“Hopefully the education around this topic, whether in the form of an awareness week or in a more pervasive form, will continue into the far future.”

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