“Send Silence Packing”: An Exhibit Highlighting Awareness For Mental Health and Suicide Prevention


A sign to draw awareness about mental health, with bags of the people who have lost their lives to suicide is seen outside Building 6, Skyline College, San Bruno, Thursday, Mar. 9.

“No, really, are you okay?”

This was one of the many signs that were posted around Skyline during the “Send Silence Packing” event on March 9th, 2020. Right in the middle of campus, Active Minds were able to establish not only a discussion but a safe space where resources were exposed in the middle of the day. More often than not, discussions about suicide are never a part of the day to day conversations because content like that is too sensitive. Regardless, the emotions that wave in when someone sees these backpacks are very effective.

Active Minds, a mental health clinic as Skyline, hosted the event as a means to create awareness for mental health and suicide prevention, as well as igniting a discussion about it.

The morning of, volunteers were planting the bags onto the floor to make sure that the stories laid on top. They laid from the concrete all the way on top of the grassy area towards Buildings 1 and 2. These stories were zip-tied onto the bag, which detailed a person struggling with a mental illness that unfortunately leads to their suicide. They were written by family, friends, and universities remembering this person and their struggles.

The stories documented people from an age range as young as 8 to 20-years-old. Collectively, they wrote about how mental illnesses are a struggle, and if they do not receive help as soon as possible, it can gradually get worse. They write about how it feels knowing that they lost that person to suicide, which overall communicates the idea of being there.

Some of the statements were letters from families, about their loss and how incredibly necessary it is to be there for someone, and not to ignore the signs of a possible suicide or self-harm. There were also photocopies of university newspapers, where the memoriam of this person was on the front page.

The volunteers also posted around campus trigger warning signs for students and staff that may not want to participate in the event. The signs pointed out the content that was going to be shown in the Quad could affect those sensitive to the topic of suicide and offered alternative routes around campus. 

Throughout the day, they handed out blue slips with their mission statements written on it, and a mini green ribbon with a pin.

“Lime green is the color of mental health awareness. Wear the lime green ribbon to show your support and start a conversation about mental health wherever you go”

“I have had friends who did consider taking their lives, and I felt as though I had no way of helping her,” said Gabbie Marquez, a student at Skyline who volunteered for the Send Silence Packing event. 

When I asked some of the volunteers whether the mental health resources here at Skyline are satisfactory, they all mentioned that some of the resources were not noticeable to the student body. In addition to this, a volunteer mentioned that the help they received was not what was expected.

“People tell you it’s hard,” said Chinni, expressing the typical response the mental health clinics give. “They only do it for 15 minutes… You can’t give empathy like it’s a prescription. It’s not a pill you can give to people, it’s either you care or you don’t.” Chinni represents one of the many students who takes the initiative to go to the mental health resources are available, but the results are lackluster. The conversation becomes robotic and entirely goal-oriented, where the person who came to release their anxiety feels even more distant. The appointments are set and the expectation is that this person will get better in that 15-minute session.

“There can be more done”, said Chinni.