How Are These Empty Backpacks Making A Statement About Suicide?

Empty backpacks representing how many college suicides occur in the U.S. each year help students realize the problem's severity.

College campuses throughout the U.S. are taking an unorthodox approach to suicide prevention awareness.

Active Minds, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising mental health awareness, is placing empty backpacks on school grounds in an effort to, “Send Silence Packing.”

Recommended: Artist Imagines What Mental Illnesses Would Look Like As Monsters

The traveling exhibit displays 1,100 backpacks total, which reflects the estimate of college suicides in the U.S. each year.

Attached to each empty backpack are a photo and a narrative of someone who has passed away, provided by their loved ones. Humanizing the exercise helps strengthen the reality of suicide for those viewing the display.

"You get to see the stories and the type of representation of how real it is, of how real suicide at our age or even younger is," Northwestern freshman Christian Ubillius reportedly USA Today College.

U.S. suicide rates were consistently on the rise between 2000 and 2013. The number rose from 10.43 per 100,000 Americans to 13.02, Mic reports. Data from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center also indicated that men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women.

Read More: Early Life Violence Tied To Mental Disorders - Study

In that 13 year time span when suicide rates were increasing, the problem particularly effected people age 15 to 24 and 25 to 34. Suicide ranked as the second-leading cause of death for both age groups during that time.

Active Minds began their fall tour on Sept. 14 and it is set to end this week. They’ve traveled through the Midwest and California to 12 campuses including, University of Michigan and University of Notre Dame.

Since the program began back in 2008, Send Silence Packing has been to nearly 100 cities.

The exhibit forces students to get real about suicide and just how serious it is. As someone who attended a California university where it seemed at one point we were regularly losing classmates to suicide, I can say firsthand that having this display could have helped start a much-needed conversation about preventing suicide and keeping up with your mental health. 

College students tend to neglect their mental and emotional health while juggling rigorous course work, a social life, family, a job, tuition fees, room and board, among other mentally draining concerns. 

View Comments

Recommended For You