Send the Silence Packing

Traveling exhibit raises awareness for mental health, suicide

Sowela Technical Community College hosted the traveling exhibit Send the Silence Packing on Wednesday. Hundreds of backpacks were brought into the Sycamore Student Center with real-life accounts of individuals who “lost the ultimate battle with mental health” through suicide attached to each bag, Courtney Burke, tour coordinator, explained.

The exhibit travels the nation in efforts to raise mental health awareness and inspire action for suicide prevention. “It’s sort of a way to let their memory live on and break down the stigma,” Burke said.

Sowela Counseling Services brought the exhibit to the college to shed light on the prevalence of mental health issues among late adolescents and young adults, Cicely Williams, student counselor, said. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among students, an epidemic few are talking about, she added.

“If this was something like cancer, we wouldn’t brush it under the rug. But we don’t do the same for mental illness,” Williams said.

While mental illness, across the board, needs more attention, she said many college aged students find themselves grappling, often untreated, with depression and anxiety. “When I visit classrooms, I often hear, ‘I didn’t realize it (depression/anxiety) had a title.’ It’s not just a funk. There are real things going on inside their bodies.”

Mental health issues often look different than expected within young adults. “People are surprised to know, it doesn’t just look like sadness. Reporting feelings of excessive anger and irritability are often indicators of more serious problems.”

Mental illness is a growing problem, Williams said, with one in five individuals experiencing some sort of mental health issue in their lifetime. Send the Silence Packing is designed to help foster a larger conversation across the campus about the warning sign and ways peers and staff can help those in need.

“You may not know what to say, but you can always listen non-judgmentally and let people know they have your support.”

Send the Silence Packing kicks off two new campus-wide mental health campaigns: “Seize the Awkward” and” #Bethe1To.”


For more information on Sowela Counseling Services visit, www.sowela.edu/student-life/studentservices/student-counselingservices/.

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Keyera Allen, a student at Sowela Technical Community College, views the Send the Silence Packing exhibit Wednesday in the Sycamore Student Center.

MarlisaHardingEducation Reporter
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