Emory’s Active Minds club hosted a suicide awareness exhibition, Send Silence Packing, on the Quadrangle (Quad) yesterday. The group also held a memorial service to commemorate student victims of suicide.

Active Minds is a student organization with the a primary focus on advocating for the mental health needs of the college-age population.

Members of Active Minds scattered more than 1,100 backpacks across the Quad. Each backpack represented one of the approximately 1,100 students that commit suicide on college campuses every year. Attached to each backpack was a personal background of a student victim.

The exhibition ran from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“Each backpack was donated to Active Minds by friends and families of suicide victims,” said Jay Kim, College junior and co-president of Active Minds. “These backpacks come with stories and personal information about the victims.”

Kim had worked with the Active Minds national office for over a year to bring the exhibition to Emory. The display is a national traveling exhibit that is hosted by Active Minds chapters throughout the country. The debut of the exhibition at Emory was the first the time exhibit was displayed in the southern U.S.

Suicide affects many students both around the country and here at Emory.

“This affects me personally. I’ve had two friends that committed suicide in the last two years,” Sarah Spitz, College sophomore and active minds co-president, said. “People don’t realize [suicide] affects many other people. This exhibit is very powerful; 1,100 is a big number.”

Mark McLeod, director of Emory Student Health and Counseling Services, led a memorial service in front of the University administration building to commemorate student victims of suicide. During the service, he discussed the importance of the event to the Emory community, noting that Active Minds members chose to host it because he wants students in the Emory community to be able to easily talk about mental health.

Student volunteers staffed two booths on the Quad, where they handed out informational flyers to passersby.

Jessica Ennis, a College junior, said that she was taken aback after reading many of the personal backgrounds attached to the backpacks on the Quad. She noted that one persistent theme was many individuals’ total surprise when a son, daughter or friend committed suicide.

“I read a backpack about a young person who was a paramedic who showed up to the scene of their friend’s suicide,” said Ennis, “Its really crazy and upsetting … I hope students think about their own friends and their own relationships. This event really teaches us that it is important to be aware of what is going on with our friends and pay a little bit more attention.”

Katelyn Bland-Clark, a first-year PhD student in the Candler School of Theology, noticed the backpacks on the Quad and was shocked by their meaning.

“It made me very sad,” said Bland-Clark. “It brings awareness that people out there are hurting, and you don’t even know about it. It’s a bold statement. Seeing the number of backpacks is truly overwhelming.”

By Dustin Slade