Mason CARES in the Media

Send Silence Packing: Backpack Display

NBC News “Active Minds Fights Stigma of Mental Illness on College Campuses”

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“GMU backpacks to send suicide silence packing”

WASHINGTON — Wednesday, Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, and a powerful traveling exhibit will kick off a fall tour with its first stop at Virginia’s George Mason University.

Each year, 1,100 students die by committing suicide; the visually powerful exhibit will drive home the scope and seriousness of this issue plaguing college campuses nationwide.

The exhibit is called “Send Silence Packing.” It’s a collection of 1,100 backpacks, on display in a central location, once owned by college students whose lives were lost to suicide. Many of the backpacks were donated by family and friends of a suicide victim. Personal stories will also give a face to the young lives that were lost.

The goal of the exhibit is to get college students talking about the taboo topic of mental health. It’s about getting the conversation started, raising awareness and working toward prevention and helping save young lives.

It was first displayed in 2008 on the National Mall. Since then, 300,000 people in 85 cities have experienced the exhibit which is run by Active Minds, a mental health awareness nonprofit.

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Fairfax Times/Loudon County Times “George Mason University Hosts Suicide Prevention Campaign”

“For World Suicide Prevention Day on Wednesday, George Mason University in Fairfax will host a national awareness campaign to open up a community conversation on mental health.

The traveling exhibit Send Silence Packing features 1,100 backpacks, representing the number of college students who die by suicide each year. The event will be co-hosted by the university’s counseling services department and its chapter of Active Minds, a nonprofit dedicated to student mental health.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

Active Minds’ national organization created Send Silence Packing in 2008 to shed light on mental health on college campuses. The display debuted on the National Mall in Washington. Since then, the backpacks have traveled to more than 70 cities across the country.

Send Silence Packing will be set up from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m Wednesday on the North Plaza of George Mason’s Fairfax campus. The display at George Mason will serve as the kickoff to the exhibit’s national tour for the fall semester. Active Minds organizes a tour of Send Silence Packing each fall and spring semester.

Most of the backpacks in the display have been donated by friends and family members of suicide victims, who attach photos and stories of those lost to suicide. The backpacks often belonged to the victims themselves.

Each school that hosts the exhibit adds its own backpack to the collection. George Mason will contribute a backpack donated by the mother of a George Mason student who died by suicide, said Emily Swain, the public relations chair for the university’s Active Minds group.

“With the backpacks, we want people to understand how big the issue of mental health is, but also how personal,” Swain said. “People need to come together to talk about mental health issues.”

The exhibit will be open not just to George Mason students but also to the wider community. More than 40 volunteers from Active Minds and Mason CARES (the school’s suicide prevention program) will be on hand to provide information on mental health resources, Swain said.

The event also will feature representatives from other mental health organizations, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Trevor Project, the Wounded Warrior Project and more, all offering their own information and resources.

Anecdotal evidence from schools that host the Send Silence Packing exhibit shows an increase in students visiting campus counseling centers, said Active Minds communication coordinator Lauren Redding.

“We want people to not just be aware of the resources available to them but to use them,” Redding said. “Mental health is still so stigmatized, and we need to take away that barrier.”

The event aims not only to reach people struggling with mental health issues but to reach their peers as well.

“Students are more likely to tell a friend if they’re struggling with mental illness than anyone else,” Redding said. “So peer education is very important. We want these friends to know what they can do and be ready to handle that situation.”

Universities with Active Minds chapters apply to host the Send Silence Packing exhibit. If selected, a school must pay a $5,000 fee to cover the cost to the national Active Minds organization. At George Mason, Mason CARES and the campus Active Minds chapter split the cost of bringing the display to Fairfax, said Leslie Geer, a director for Mason CARES and the university’s assistant director of wellness and prevention.

“This is a really powerful way of bringing mental health to the forefront,” Geer said. “Suicide does not discriminate, and we want to reach as many people as possible.”

What To Do If You Are Afraid Of Your College Roommate 



9:27 PM, Feb 12, 2013

(WUSA) — For many students heading off to college for the first time, it is a worry wondering who their roommate will be.

George Mason freshman Lauren Runion says she was concerned about that, given the recent shootings making news around the country.

But, for the first three weeks of school this year, Runion didn’t have a roommate. Then fellow freshman Rachel Rudsky called to ask if she could move in. She was hoping to get out of a bad situation with her current roommates.

“We sort of starting butting heads,” said Rudsky.

So, Rudsky met with her Resident Advisor who helped make the change. Now, the two new roommates are good friends.

Getting help is exactly what a student should do if they’re bothered by another student. And even if a student lives off campus, he or she should still seek the help of their college’s counseling services.

“If you have fear, don’t ignore it,” said Dr. Adrienne Barna, the director of Mason’s Caps, Counseling and Psychological Services.

She says that most campuses have places where students can receive counseling help or report concern about another student.

Dr. Barna advises, “Do not stand by and let things get worse.”

Nick Gentile, a Licensed Practicing Counselor with Potomac Psychological Center, says college students should not ignore tell-signs of mental distress, such as isolation, and aggressive behavior.

And, even though college kids are notorious for not getting enough sleep, “If you notice your roommate not sleeping for days on end, those are some tell-tale signs that someone needs help.”

Gentile adds that it’s important for parents of college students, to meet roommates and ask questions and continue to be involved in their child’s life.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Annouces $6.4 million is Suicide Prevention Grants to Colleges and Universities

On Sept. 12, 2012, SAMHSA announced grants to 39 colleges and universities for suicide prevention initiatives. SAMHSA’s Campus Suicide Prevention Grant program is designed to assist in suicide prevention efforts at institutions of higher education by supporting education and outreach efforts for students with mental and behavioral health issues that put them at risk for suicide, such as depression or substance use/abuse. Funds made available under the Campus Suicide Prevention program can be used for various campus activities that promote effective mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment strategies.

In addition, SAMHSA also announced $13.7 million in suicide prevention grants to 23 states and tribes. The State/Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention Grant program supports states and tribes in developing and implementing public and private sector collaborative programs designed to prevent youth suicides through early intervention initiatives.

Both programs are authorized under the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act.

On April 6, 2011, the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization of 2011 (S. 740) was introduced by Senators Jack Reed, D-R.I.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; and Tom Udall, D-N.M. As of September 2012, S. 740 has gained 13 additional co-sponsors.

This legislation would reauthorize the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, maintain the State/Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention program, and expand the uses of funds available to counseling centers under the Campus Suicide Prevention program to better meet the diverse needs of students. Support the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization of 2011.

Please visit SAMHSA for a full listing of all FY 2012 Campus Suicide Preventiongrantees and FY 2012 State/Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention grantees.

Please visit the Suicide Prevention Resource Center for additional resources on the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention grantees.