Advocates seek to send silence packing

October 5, 2018

DeKALB – Khiree Cross cryptically remarked on the work Northern Illinois University students did Thursday.

“It feels like we recreated a graveyard,” said Cross, president of the Student Association, NIU’s student government.

More than 1,000 backpacks were laid on the grounds of MLK Commons at NIU as part of the Send Silence Packing suicide awareness and advocacy event. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., backpacks with messages of encouragement and tragic stories of loved ones lost, all written and donated by families, friends and campuses affected by suicide, were displayed to educate passersby about suicide prevention.

“This event represents the roughly 1,000 students each year who commit suicide on college campuses,” said Cassandra Kamp, event organizer and president of the NIU chapter of Active Minds, a national nonprofit organization that empowers students across the country to speak openly and unapologetically about mental health, and educate advocates on providing resources.

Kamp is a sophomore from Bartlett, who has lost friends to suicide, prompting her to become a vocal advocate and double major in psychology and rehabilitation and disability services.

Kamp said students and staff volunteers from the university’s Active Minds chapter, NIU’s counseling and consultation services office, representatives from Active Minds’ national headquarters and the NIU Student Association spent about 45 minutes Thursday morning setting up the display.

The Student Association partnered with Active Minds for Send Silence Packing, as part of its multiyear #NoShame Campaign. Cross, a senior from Dalton, majoring in business management with an emphasis in leadership, said he hopes Thursday’s show prompts students to rid themselves of the stigma surrounding counseling and to understand that NIU is a safe space where no person should have to face suicidal thoughts alone.

“Most students suffer from some form of mental illness,” said Tristan Martin, a senior from Somonauk and the Student Association’s speaker of the senate. He said SA’s #NoShame Campaign will supplement the important message of educating students about the resources at their disposal.

Active Minds hopes to take the lack of open conversation surrounding suicide and generate discussion focused on recovery and providing resources to individuals who feel they suffer alone.

In line with October being Disability Awareness Month, NIU’s Active Minds chapter will partner with ESPN on Tuesday to host the #SameHere Sit-Down College Tour. NIU was chosen along with 14 other universities and colleges across the country for the Global Health Alliances’ “We’re All a Little Crazy” traveling panel. Notable speakers include Daniel Carcillo, a former Blackhawk and two-time Stanley Cup winner, and will include individual storytelling, panel and open discussion. The event will be from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Duke Ellington Ballroom in the Holmes Student Center.

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