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Students push for openness about mental health

Ole Miss organization hosts suicide-awareness exhibit

Over 1,000 backpacks filled the Grove at the University of Mississippi on March 19, as part of an initiative by students to bring awareness to suicide and mental health. Each backpack symbolized a college student who had lost his or her life to suicide and included a personal story from someone who had lost a loved one to suicide.

The Grove at the University of Mississippi was blanketed with more than 1,000 backpacks on March 19, each representing a college student who lost their life to suicide.

The Grove at the University of Mississippi was blanketed with more than 1,000 backpacks on March 19, each representing a college student who lost their life to suicide.

Sponsored by the Active Minds chapter at the University of Mississippi, the Send Silence Packing event is a traveling exhibit that raises awareness for mental health by sharing the stories of young adults who have lost their lives to suicide. Right Track Medical Group was among the sponsors who worked with Active Minds to make the event possible.

“It’s a privilege for us to be able to support an effort like this,” said Right Track Medical Group’s Director of Outreach Carol Ann Hughes, who spent the day in the Grove alongside Therapist Emily Grace Ames, LPC. 

“Today’s young adults are advancing the conversation about mental health and bringing it to the forefront,” Hughes said. “They talk openly about mental health and are much more likely to get mental healthcare when they need it. Their generation is changing the culture — not only among their peers, but also in their families and communities.”

According to Active Minds, a national nonprofit organization, some 39 percent of students in college will experience a significant mental health issue. Among students, suicide is the second leading cause of death. In a 2015 study of 800 people between ages 18 and 32, more than 70 percent of those responding agreed that people their age were more open to address mental-health topics than older people. 

At Ole Miss, the goal of the Active Minds chapter is to spark conversation and eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health. Founded three years ago, the student-run organization hosts events such as Send Silence Packing throughout the year as a way to encourage action and connect students with mental health resources. 

Right Track Medical Group’s Therapist Emily Grace Ames, LPC, and Director of Outreach Carol Ann Hughes spent the day in the Grove offering support to students.

Right Track Medical Group’s Therapist Emily Grace Ames, LPC, and Director of Outreach Carol Ann Hughes spent the day in the Grove offering support to students.

“Changing the conversation about mental health is important because merely showing someone that they are heard can impact his or her life forever,” said Jessica Tran, current president of Active Minds. 

“With over 1,000 backpacks scattered across the Grove, students were able to see that they are not alone in their daily struggles. Reading the stories on the backpacks that are written by friends, family, and strangers, students are reminded that they are not only important to this world, but they are also extremely loved.”

The Send Silence Packing tour will visit more than 30 college campuses this year, said tour coordinator Courtney Burke. For Burke, the most important part of these events is seeing it breaking the stigma around suicide and mental health.

“It’s so important that students don’t feel this shame about struggling with their mental health,” Burke said. “I have so many friends who were silent for so long, and I think something like this might’ve helped them talk about it sooner.”

Students will be able to participate in more upcoming events hosted by Active Minds during Mental Health Week, April 1-5. Events include a Humans of Ole Miss exhibit, featuring students’ photos and stories. In another event, students will be given a flower and encouraged to pass it along to someone else, signifying how many lives can be touched by a single person. Free events will take place throughout the week, such as a yoga class in the Grove. 

For more information on Mental Health Week at the University of Mississippi, visit Active Minds on Facebookor Instagram

Lucy Schultze