It’s time to ‘Send Silence Packing’

Savannah Hernandez, Assistant News Editor

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Active Minds will be hosting a suicide awareness and prevention exhibit known as ‘Send Silence Packing’ on Tuesday, Oct. 8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the University Center Mall.

‘Send Silence Packing’ is an exhibit filled with 1,100 backpacks to represent the amount of college students lost to suicide each year, with each backpack displaying a personal story of someone lost to suicide.

“I think it’s empowering to see students come together to fight for something that they’re passionate about since mental health affects everyone, even if you just get debilitated by anxiety during testing season,” said Taylor Stevens.

Stevens is the founder of Active Minds, a student mental health organization on campus. She was president for two years after founding the organization three years ago because she saw both herself and other students struggling with mental health, and she wanted to create a student-led outlet and resource.

“At our first meeting we had five people, and by the end of the year we had 20 people,” she said. “I wanted it to be an open atmosphere for students who may not be able to get into counseling services, or who are new to mental health awareness and they’re not as comfortable talking to adults [as they are] students.”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in college students, which is why Active Minds and the exhibit aim to stop the silence and the stigma around mental health.

“The purpose of [Send Silence Packing] is to raise mental health awareness and inspire action for suicide prevention. I continue to talk about mental health because it is just as important as physical health,” said Kelsey Pacetti.

Pacetti became the president of Active Minds this year after starting in the organization at Eastern Michigan University. After transferring to UW-W, she held the position of Vice President before becoming president.

“I love being a mental health advocate, to be a part of ending the stigma surrounding mental health and creating a safe place for those struggling on campus. It is time to normalize mental health [care] and therapy because it is okay to not be okay,” she said.

While the exhibit is meant to encourage students to speak out about mental health, Active Minds and the UW-W campus understand that some students will feel triggered by the event, and there will be people there to help.

“Active Minds brings two professional staff, and we will have grad students to provide support, Winther counseling, a UHCS counselor, and Zero Suicide Coalition from Jefferson County,” said Erica Fischer. “The goal of their presence is to provide information, but also to provide emotional support for students who are experiencing the exhibit.”

Fischer is the Wellness Coordinator of University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS) and she has been working in the wellness department at UW-W for nearly four years. She wants students to know that mental health affects everyone, and that they are encouraged to utilize the counseling and wellness services both at UHCS and Winther Counseling.

“You don’t need a diagnosis to come to counseling. For some, it’s a way to get through every week, and for others it’s time to talk to someone who has an unbiased perspective,” she said. “Mental health is on the spectrum of being well and being ill. We move on that spectrum throughout our lives and that just means we all experience life differently.”

Students who are in need of help or support can schedule counseling appointments with UHCS over the phone with the phone number (262)472-1300 or walk in during a crisis. They can also schedule appointments with Winther Counseling and can attend Active Minds meetings on Mondays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. which take place in room 264 in the University Center.

The rain location for the exhibit will be the Hamilton Room in the University Center. Students are encouraged to attend ‘Send Silence Packing’ to learn more and help end the silence that surrounds mental health issues.