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The North Wind

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Molly Birch
Molly Birch

My name is Molly, and I am in my second year at NMU. I come from Midland, MI, probably one of the most boring places on earth. However, we do have the only Tridge in the world, so that’s pretty nifty...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Women’s spring soccer comes to an end this weekend
Lily GouinApril 19, 2024

Suicide Awareness: Breaking mental health stigma with backpacks

SENDING SILENCE—Hundreds of backpacks with personal suicide stories stopped students in their tracks in Jamrich’s lobby Monday, Sept. 30. Hosted by NMU’s Chapter of Active Minds, the exhibit represented the number of students who commit suicide each year nationally with hopes of raising mental health awareness. Jackie Jahfetson/NW

Around 1,100 backpacks filled Jamrich’s lobby during classes on Monday as part of an exhibit representing the approximate number of undergraduate students who commit suicide each year nationwide.  

NMU Chapter of Active Minds hosted the Send Silence Packing with hopes to raise mental health awareness and encourage people to start talking about this touchy subject. Given the nature of the exhibit, multiple trigger warnings were displayed at the event to allow people to bypass the exhibit and take a different route. 

Active Minds is all about breaking the stigma on mental health and Monday’s event was a wake-up call, Active Minds Co-President Sadie Knill said. The overall feedback was positive, and several students were thankful that it’s becoming an open discussion, but many people also realized how serious of a topic it is and it’s time to address it, Knill said. 

“Mental health is so taboo. People are scared to talk about it and scared to come forward with their own struggles and we’re really truly trying to push that everybody deals with something and it’s just as important as a physical illness,” Knill said. “It’s a little bit tougher in the sense that you can’t really see when someone has a mental health problem. We have to keep the conversation open and make people feel more comfortable with mental health so that they feel like they can get help when they need it.” 

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The goal was to engage people and a lot of the stories showcased on the backpacks were emotional with around 200 backpacks donated from family and friends, Knill said. 

“I think it’s definitely made an impact. It kind of stopped people in their tracks because you see a bunch of backpacks and you don’t really know what it is about. And then once we say, ‘It’s a suicide awareness exhibit.’ They’re like, ‘Wow. That’s a lot more backpacks than I would like to see. It’s shocking,’” Knill said. 

The stigma surrounding mental health makes it difficult for people to talk about, NMU professor and Active Minds Chapter Adviser Julie Rochester said in a press release. 

“The NMU student organization chose to bring the exhibit here because of its impactful message. ‘Send Silence Packing’ includes personal stories from individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide. That’s a powerful way to raise awareness. The donation of stories and backpacks also serve as a meaningful outlet for survivors to channel their grief,” Rochester said. 

Active Minds hopes to partner up with other student organizations to continue raising awareness on mental illness, including collaborations with the Public Relations Student Society of America, Student Psychological Association and Mental Health Matters. 

Mental illness differs from a physical illness in the sense that it’s difficult to detect when something is wrong, but by getting more people to come forward and comfortable discussing it, it will no longer be a taboo subject, Knill added. 

“It’s okay to have a bad mental health day or to have something wrong with your mental health to need help. It’s okay to reach out and it’s okay to find help,” Knill said. 

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