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Send Silence Packing comes to Belmont

Backpacks scattered across the main lawn to memorialize the stories of those who took their own lives; Isaac Wetzel/Belmont Vision

Jenna Riley, Jason Cartwright, Samuel Edwards.

They’re not numbers or statistics.

Amy Packard, Lisa Crowley, Charley and Scott Webb.

Their names were attached to backpacks and placed around the main lawn on campus Wednesday to honor those who have died by suicide and bring awareness to suicide prevention.

Send Silence Packing, an interactive display, is part of Belmont’s Suicide Prevention and Awareness week. It was sponsored by Active Minds, a suicide prevention initiative with a chapter on campus.

Belmont was the first stop on a 21-school tour for the exhibit.

The goal of the one-day installation was to spark conversations about mental health and to tell the stories of those who took their own lives.

“Many people have been affected by suicide in personal ways and talking about it does dramatically decrease the risk of suicide, which is important because over 100 people can be affected by just one suicide,” said Khalil Dabdoub, president of Belmont’s Active Minds chapter.

The exhibit featured hundreds of backpacks on the main lawn and Freedom Plaza tagged with the stories of those affected by suicide, alongside letters written by friends and family. Some backpacks were dedicated by universities like Pitt, Pitzer and Tennessee Tech University with notes to the memorialized students.

“You can kind of get a more personal view and story of somebody so it’s not just a general conversation of suicide,” said Dabdoub.

Most of the backpacks included names – Jeffrey Carbral, Aly McCroskey – but some just stated the relationship – grandma, dad, husband.

“It’s important for us to be aware of what’s really going on and not live in this little bubble where we think everything is fine,” said freshman Adriana Alonso while reading the backpacks set up along the fountain.

Alonso said she appreciated Belmont taking the initiative to bring Send Silence Packing to campus because these were stories most college students wouldn’t otherwise hear.

The stories of others can inspire students to speak up about their own mental health, which is part of Active Minds’ mission.

Active Minds sign in the area of the exhibit; Isaac Wetzel/Belmont Vision

“It creates a safe space on campus and 67% of students are more likely to talk to a peer about what they’re going through,” said Kelsey Pacetti, a Send Silence Packing display coordinator.

“I hope that students feel like they can access counseling on campus, I hope students feel like they can tell a friend when they’re struggling and I hope that those friends have those resources where they know how to respond in a helpful, validating way.”

Send Silence Packing will head to Vanderbilt University Thursday before heading to campuses in Illinois.

To read more stories of those who have died by or attempted suicide, check out the Send Silence Packing virtual experience.

“I just hope that we’re able to connect people and really just start the conversation,” Pacetti said.

This story was written by Sarah Maninger

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