Students stood beside 1,100 backpacks displayed on the Speaker’s Platform lawn Monday afternoon to read the stories of college students who committed suicide.
Send Silence Packing was created by Active Minds, a national nonprofit organization that raises mental health awareness and educates college students on the available resources students have in and around their college campus community.
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death, most common amongst 15 to 25-year-olds,” said Samantha Greenhalgh, a Send Silence Packing roadstaffer and Active Minds employee.
The organization collects data on college student suicides from universities around the United States.
Greenhalgh stated there are approximately 1,100 suicides a year.
“That’s just strictly college students. It is an estimate that we got in 2008,” she said. “We are currently working on updating statistics, but I do know that number has grown about double, if not more than that.”
Once data is collected, SSP reaches out and ask for participation from campuses across the nation to display backpacks in order to raise suicide awareness.
Each backpack represents a college student who has committed suicide and includes the individual’s story.
Additionally, some backpacks had pictures of the college students who committed suicide.
Many students shared how the display of backpacks around the grass impacted them.
“I think it’s so mind blowing to see how many people have taken their lives,” film major and freshman Casandra Garcia said. “We don’t know what they went through and it’s just so sad.”
For others, the stories displayed on the backpacks were relatable and personal.
“I knew a few people who have attempted [suicide],” said junior liberal studies major Brooke Myrick. “Feelings of loneliness drove them to attempt. Most of them were in high school when it happened.”
Myrick explained that one of her friends attempted suicide by overdosing on pills. Additionally, her friend’s parents were unaware of her state of depression before the suicide attempt.
Her friend survived and currently goes to college while still communicating with Myrick
The display was coordinated by Active Minds, CSULB Counseling and Psychiatric Services, On Campus Emergency Assistance Network and other organizations.
“It was a joint effort to get it here on campus,” said Nancy Meyer-Adams, director of The School of Social Work at CSULB and faculty advisor of Active Minds. “It was here in 2011 and it’s very rare that they revisit campuses. So, we are very happy to have it.”
It is not known why it was a long time before SSP came back on campus.
Ricky Lemberger, an Active Minds social worker and CSULB student, knew friends who had committed suicide.
“At least four people who I knew have committed suicide,” Lemberger said. “They were people who were struggling with addiction, alcoholism and who were struggling with life in general.”
Physics major and freshman Samantha Satre shared that her softball coach took his life two-years ago after battling depression following a motorcyle accident.
Her coach was also her friend’s father.
“I had known him since I was 10,” Satre said. “When I saw him before he passed, he was definitely different. He didn’t have that fun and loving energy he used to have. He was solemn.”
Satre said that she experienced a period of depression after the suicide.
“Luckily I sought refuge in others and I now write poetry and it helps as an outlet,” she said. “Whenever I feel self-destructive I write out a poem and it relaxes me.”
In conjunction with Send Silence Packing, dogs and guinea pigs for emotional support were provided by Beach Animals Reading with Kids Therapy Dogs, an all-volunteer program. The dogs were meant to calm or soothe students who may have been shaken due to the powerful content of the exhibit.
The pets have been trained and tested by certified individuals and can help with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
CAPS offers counseling and professional assistance to students who are struggling with any types of emotional stress. Their office is located in room 226 in Brotman Hall.
Additionally, if you or anyone you know are having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-(800)-273-825.
Monica Gallardo contributed to this story.