Bridgewater College focuses on student suicide prevention

bridgewaterA public exhibition of 1,100 backpacks – each commemorating one of the 1,100 college students who die by suicide in the United States each year – will be on display at Bridgewater College Sept. 16 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the campus mall. The display is free and the public is invited to attend.

The exhibition, titled “Send Silence Packing,” was developed by Active Minds Inc., a national organization dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues among college students. The backpacks, which will go from Bridgewater to five other college campuses throughout the South, were donated in memory of loved ones who died by suicide.

The backpacks will feature personal stories in memory or honor of loved ones affected by suicide. The Bridgewater College chapter of Active Minds notes that displaying backpacks with personal stories puts a “face” to lives lost to suicide, and carries the message that preventing suicide isn’t just about improving statistics, but also about saving lives.

The event at Bridgewater is being made possible by the Mark Flora Memorial Fund.

Bridgewater College is proud to be a part of such a powerful and meaningful expression through ‘Send Silence Packing,’” said Randy Hook, director of counseling services at Bridgewater. “The display is a testament to the college’s commitment to raising awareness of the issues associated with mental health and the stigma that is often attached to it.

“Our hope,” he continued, “is that this event will foster broader discussion about how we can better meet the mental and emotional requirements of all those in need. No family should ever have to experience the tragedy of suicide, but the reality is that many have.”

Hook said those involved in the college’s Active Minds chapter hope that “Send Silence Packing” can serve as a place of healing for those who have experienced such a loss, and provide assurance that “there are many voices committed to, indeed, sending silence packing.”

Hook added that Active Minds is growing on college campuses across the nation as it empowers students to speak openly about mental health in order to educate others and encourage help-seeking. The non-profit organization is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Bridgewater College is a private, four-year liberal arts college located in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Founded in 1880, it was the state’s first private, coeducational college. Today, Bridgewater College is home to approximately 1,800 undergraduate students.

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