Backpack display opens students’ eyes


Robbie Elsbury Jr.

The backpacks represented the amount of students each year who commit suicide.

Savannah Hernandez, Assistant News Editor

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, Active Minds hosted a suicide awareness event known as Send Silence Packing on the University Center Mall.

Send Silence Packing is an exhibit of 1,100 backpacks to represent the amount of students lost to suicide every year. The exhibit included booths for mental health resources, counselors for attendees to speak with and volunteers to provide comfort.

“Everyone has mental health, but not everyone has mental illness. Those struggling with mental illness should not feel ashamed and should not feel the need to hide their pain,” said Kelsey Pacetti.

Pacetti became the president of Active Minds this year, and she hopes that Send Silence Packing sent out a universal message: students should speak out about their pain because suffering in silence often leads to the worst.

“Stigma is shame. Shame causes silence. Silence hurts us all,” she said.

Not only did members and executives of Active Minds help set up the exhibit, but some were there throughout the day to speak with and help give resources to visitors.

“Helping unload the backpacks was definitely moving, but I didn’t really expect the differences in all the stories,” said Taylor Stevens. “I approached some students who were looking at the backpacks who were really emotionally affected.”

Stevens is the founder of Active Minds on the UW-W campus and helped organize the event. She said that she had hoped the exhibit would get students thinking, and she believes that it did exactly that.

“Even if you didn’t stop and read a story, just hearing about what the backpacks signified really got students to think about themselves or someone that they know who they think they should reach out to. We want to make sure that students feel safe on campus. No matter what, there are support networks and there are people you can talk to,” she said.

Many students stopped to view the backpacks and discover what resources the campus has for mental health care.

“I have been exposed to mental health awareness before but seeing the physical backpacks and the stories of each person was very powerful and eye-opening,” said Maddie Walczak. “It showed how you don’t know how anyone else feels. Anyone around you could need help, which is why we really need to look out for one another.”

Walczak was interested in the display of backpacks but did not expect such personal, hard-hitting stories.

If you are in need of mental health resources, call the counseling center at 262-472-1305 or make an appointment online.