1,000 backpacks on campus represent college student suicide rates

Jenn Yingling

Send Silence Packing, a traveling exhibit featuring over 1,000 backpacks that represent annual college suicide rates, visited campus on Friday.

The exhibit was on display in the North Ballroom of the Lory Student Center from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. It was sponsored by the Colorado State University Health Network, the Associated Students of Colorado State University and Active Minds, a student organization that aims to empower college students to speak openly about mental health issues and suicide.


The exhibit visits around 20 different colleges and universities per year, with CSU being chosen as one of those this year.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people deal with suicide,” said Kelsey Carpenter, president of the Active Minds chapter at CSU. “This is a way to start the conversation and advertise the amazing resources that CSU has to offer for students.”

Each backpack represented the life of a college student who was lost to suicide. Photographs of these students as well as some of their stories were found among the backpacks.

One backpack shared the story of Callie, a student who committed suicide in her dorm room at the University of Colorado the day before the spring semester began in 2002.

“Callie is loved deeply and in our hearts every day. We miss her very much,” read the note attached to the backpack.

Another backpack had a poem attached to it with a note that read, “I miss you terribly but I am doing okay. Love, mom.”

CSU Health Network Counseling Services was at the event to talk with students and offer support and counseling throughout the duration of the event.

According to Send Silence Packing suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students and 90 percent of people who die by suicide struggled with a treatable mental health disorder at the time of their death.

“We want to emphasize to our community that no one needs to struggle alone and that there is help available,” Janelle Patrias, manager of Mental Health Initiatives and Active Minds advisor, wrote in an email to the Collegian. “We can help reduce the stigma of mental illness and suicide by talking more openly about these important issues.”

The backpacks were donated through the National Active Minds Organization and many of which were donated by families who lost a student to suicide.


According to posters at the event 50 percent of college students report suicidal thoughts at some time in their life.

“The (suicide) statistics are pretty alarming,” said Kayla Wong, alumna and co-founder of the Active Minds chapter at CSU. “We want to open the door for a peer-to-peer interaction.”

At the end of the event visitors were asked to write words of encouragement or share their own stories on note cards. The cards were placed in a backpack and donated by the Active Minds Chapter at CSU. This backpack will travel with the event around the country.

Notice and Respond is a CSU Health Network resource that gives information on how to both notice a person’s level of distress as well as how to appropriately respond.

Students can find help with campus resources including the Health Network, Resources for Disabled Students, Student Case Management and YOU@CSU.

You can join Active Minds via email at csuactiveminds@gmail.com or by attending their weekly meetings every other Tuesday from 6 p.m.-7p.m. in room 140 of the LSC. The next meeting is Tuesday, April 11.

Collegian reporter Jenn Yingling can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @jenn_yingling.