LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Send Silence Packing took their exhibit to SOWELA in order to address mental health awareness among college students.
“The backpacks represent a message of hope, opposed to a message of grief." Courtney Burke, the Send Silence Packing tour coordinator, said. "Our main goal is to really break down that silence in honor of those who have lost the fight.”
Over 400 backpacks were placed in the Sycamore Student Union to remember a life taken by suicide.
“You can’t ignore a room full of 1000 backpacks and then people’s stories of how they’ve been impacted by suicide without starting a conversation,” SOWELA student counselor, Cicely Williams said.
SOWELA student, Darrin Nixon, said the stress of college is a lot to handle alone.
“We’re involved in so much, and there’s so much stress and anxiety and depression that comes with attending college already, and we’re surrounded by each other,” Nixon said.
The exhibit shares that the second-leading cause of death among students is suicide. The first step to fighting suicides is to admit there’s a problem; something the letters from families attached to each backpack explains.
“I read a lot of these backpacks. A lot of them have in common that the family members didn’t know, or their peers didn’t know," Nixon said. "They never thought that the family member or friend would do this; I believe because they didn’t take time to ask how they were doing.”
“With anything, tell them you love them, you support them," Williams said. "Say, ‘hey I want to talk, non-judgmentally.’ That’s the biggest piece.”
The exhibit has traveled to over 200 campuses, and organizers hope to continue to spread a message of hope.