For over a decade, the Active Minds Send Silence Packing® (SSP) display has traveled the country to end the silence surrounding mental illness and suicide. Send Silence Packing® encourages attendees to seek support for themselves, friends, or loved ones, with trained professionals available on-site and thousands of mental health resources distributed to community members at each stop. Our fall 2023 Send Silence Packing® tour kicked off last month, and we spoke with this semester’s tour coordinators, TJ and Jehlad, about their passion for mental health, why programs like SSP are so important, as well as the advice they would give to other young adults who are passionate about mental health advocacy.
- Tell us a little bit about yourselves!
TJ: I’m from Washington, D.C., and my pronouns are he/him. In my heart, I am still 21 years old, but as of this upcoming November, I will be 28. I enjoy cultivating happiness for myself in many ways, whether it’s making art, participating in sports, adventuring through vast lands, or challenging my brain.
Jehlad: I’m 28 years old, from San Diego, CA, and I use he/him pronouns. I love playing and making music, cooking, playing basketball and tennis, and going to the beach.
- What sparked your passion for mental health and suicide prevention?
TJ: My passion for mental health was sparked by a near and dear friend who had taken his life during high school. He was always loved, and everyone wanted the best for him. To this day, I question what he was going through. I always find that it’s not right for me to wither away in questions that can’t be answered by anyone other than him, but I can be one to help others and see that we can work through the issues that we may choose to hide. Jehlad: I have always been passionate about mental health, solving its issues, and addressing the stigmas we face as a society. I was the president of my Chapter of Active Minds in college from 2016 to 2017 before graduating in 2017. My past experiences have been working as an ABA (applied behavioral analysis) therapist and mental health worker. I will be starting a new job after the tour as a recreational therapist.
- For those who might not be familiar: what is Send Silence Packing®?
Jehlad: Send Silence Packing® is an interactive exhibition that encourages people to seek out helpful resources for themselves, friends, or loved ones through personal stories. They include stories of loss, struggle, and hope. The exhibit consists of a labyrinth of the backpacks and the stories, a Behind the Backpacks virtual storytelling theater, a resource tent, and a Hope Wall for students to write affirmations to others who might be struggling. Through SSP, we can give students a resource and space to discuss mental health resources. TJ: For me, Send Silence Packing® shows everyone that we all face mental health issues daily, but there are people to help us cope and overcome our struggles. Instead of stressing yourself out searching alone through resources available to find the “perfect fit,” come out to the exhibit and find the place or person that will allow you to express yourself. With SSP®, you will find stories of others who may deal with the same issues, as well as someone who can guide you or refer you to someone who can help.
- What are you most looking forward to on the 2023 Send Silence Packing® tour?
TJ: During and after this tour, I want to be someone others can look up to and lean on for guidance. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs throughout my twists and turns in life. I’m hoping to influence others that tough times don’t last and there’s more to life than the present moment. Jehlad: I’m looking forward to meeting so many people and seeing how much of an impact SSP will create through this amazing non-profit organization.
- What advice would you give to other young adults passionate about mental health who want to help create change?
TJ: My greatest advice is to begin with oneself, feel the freedom life grants you, and not let anything or anything take your mental stability away. That will attract others who want to help. Also, learning about yourself enables you to become more selfless and aware of triggers for people dealing with the same struggles as yours or closely related ones. Jehlad: Start with a local community club that brings people together to talk about mental health, or join your local Active Minds Chapter. Together, we can actively change the conversation and do something about changing the stigma.
To see the display in action, check out this recap from the first stop of the 2023 Send Silence Packing® tour at the University of Maryland. If you want to learn more about bringing Send Silence Packing® to your community, please visit our website!