Megan Snow ‘20
Active Minds, a mental health awareness group on campus, made history this fall by sponsoring an event called Send Silence Packing on Sept. 17. Send Silence Packing promotes suicide prevention on college campuses.
The powerful display set up in front of McQuade Library included over one thousand backpacks, each representing the heartbreaking statistic of over one thousand college students who die from suicide every year. Many of the backpacks included letters written by friends or family of their loved ones who passed, making an impact on every person who stopped to read their messages.
Volunteers for the event began setting up for the event early on Monday morning, despite gas and fire problems affecting Andover, North Andover and Lawrence over the weekend. Hamel Health, as well as the Active Minds chapter on campus, offered resources for students during the event, promoting positive messages about taking care of one another, a characteristic that is very familiar among the Merrimack community.
Send Silence Packing is a tour done by the Active Minds national organization, which is based in Washington D.C. Active Minds has been sponsoring this event for over a decade, stopping at over one hundred and fifty college campuses with a message that is not only powerful, but very emotional for observers. Active Mind’s purpose behind Send Silence Packing is to make an impact on faculty and students, as well as connect students to mental health resources and promoting messages of positivity.
“This event was unlike anything that Merrimack has seen,” says Ashley Vieno, the President of the Active Minds chapter on campus, “It helps students stop and think about how significant suicide really is, particularly on college campuses.”
Even though there was immense sadness among the students and faculty who volunteered to explain the purpose of this event, Send Silence Packing left a mark on the Merrimack community, as suicide prevention continues to be a growing topic of concern.
“Seeing the backpacks, reading the stories, and standing in the center of it all is something else,” says Haley Norris, a student on campus who volunteered during the event, “You feel so much for people you never got to know.”
Erin Kaminski, the Wellness Educator at Merrimack, encourages students to take advantage of the resources available on campus, including Hamel Health and Counseling Services, the Office of Wellness Education, and the Active Minds group. “These students are the ones who can know what to look for in a friend who may need some help,” she says, “They can be the one that has a life-changing conversation. They can be the one that saves their friend’s life. The students in these organizations and leadership roles on campus may not always be the first choice for someone to talk to, but we, as a community, need to embrace that.”
Suicide prevention is a difficult topic to tackle on college campuses, but a very important one. Active Minds has taken the first step forward by bringing Send Silence Packing to the Merrimack community. Now it’s up to students to continue the conversation and fight the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide. This event comes right before the start of Suicide prevention month during October.