Penn student organizations joined a nationwide movement and covered College Green with a suicide awareness art installation to destigmatize mental health and connect community members with resources for support.
For more than a decade, the “Send Silence Packing” interactive display program has toured college campuses across the country and partnered with local student volunteers to raise mental health awareness. Penn student groups Active Minds and CogWell joined forces to bring the demonstration to the University.
Counseling and Psychological Services Director of Integrated Care Initiatives Batsirai Bvunzawabaya told The Daily Pennsylvanian that Wellness at Penn is proud to support the student-led Active Minds and CogWell organizations in their efforts to inspire action.
“Everyone’s story matters, and it’s important to know that there are resources and people who can listen and provide support. Student Health and Counseling is here to provide 24/7 support, no matter the issue,” Bvunzawabaya told the DP.
Active Minds focuses on treating and preventing mental illness and suicide by making mental health “a comfortable, everyday conversation,” especially when suicide remains the second leading cause of death among young adults, according to the organization’s website.
In addition to the backpacks, the event organizers also provided mental health resources and informative flyers to community members, lined Locust Walk with inspirational signs with phrases like, “It’s OK to not be OK,” and, “We need you here,” and promoted a video featuring student leaders highlighting warning signs for suicide and various Penn resources to get support.
CAPS Coordinator of Prevention Programs Alaina Spiegel told the DP that the video was created in collaboration with the Higher Education Suicide Prevention Coalition to spotlight the importance of sharing one’s feelings with trusted people and talking about mental health.
“When we think about mental health and we think about suicide prevention, connecting with people and feeling less alone is essential,” Spiegel said. “We wanted this video to be ‘for students, by students' so that they can really see themselves in some of these stories."
College sophomore and Send Silence Packing organizer Sutton Grossinger told the DP that the event’s central location on College Green has the potential to increase exposure to mental health awareness.
“As students go about their day, you never know what someone’s story is and whether or not they can be helped just by having this reminder,” Grossinger said.
Grossinger said that the event has allowed her to reflect on the status of her own mental health as a college student.
“Hopefully, if there’s anybody here on campus who is struggling, they see this event and then they can find resources that they need and find help from,” Grossinger said.
The Send Silence Packing event will next travel to nearby Saint Joseph’s University on Sept. 9 and plans on visiting 15 more college campuses before the end of the month.