Display of backpacks to raise awareness of mental illness among students

SUNY Oswego will host a touring exhibition Wednesday, April 18, of 1,100 backpacks to raise awareness of and reduce stigma toward mental illness among college students.

The backpacks, arrayed on SUNY Oswego’s academic quad from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., both symbolize the 1,100 college students lost to suicide each year and share personal stories. In case of inclement weather, the display will take place in Hewitt Union ballroom.

“Few people realize that suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses and is erasing the future of so many of our peers,” said Jo Molascon, founder of the SUNY Oswego chapter of Active Minds, a national advocacy organization that draws attention to the prevalence of mental illness among college-age adults.

Active Minds will pass out literature on mental health, suicide and where to get help, and plans to engage campus citizens and the public in dialogue in an effort to end silence among those suffering depression, and their families and friends.

“Together we can save lives. Let’s just talk about it, but without stigma and judgment,” Molascon said.

A research presentation and a panel discussion expanding on topics addressed by “Send Silence Packing” will be among hundreds of activities April 18 during Quest, SUNY Oswego’s annual day to celebrate scholarship and creativity on campus.

Jane LeBlanc, counselor at SUNY Oswego’s Counseling Services Center, advises the campus chapter of Active Minds, which has more than 300 chapters around the country.

Other colleges and universities in the spring 2012 tour of “Send Silence Packing” include Syracuse, Hofstra and St. Joseph’s universities and Smith, Bard and Franklin & Marshall colleges. The group continues to collect backpacks and stories, putting faces to the lives of college students lost to suicide. For more information, visit http://www.sendsilencepacking.org.

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(Posted: Apr 04, 2012)