Send Silence Packing – Week One Recap & Tour Staff Bios

Eric Golembiewski
Eric Golembiewski

The first stop on our Fall 2018 Send Silence Packing tour was at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts. This small, yet vibrant campus was a great spot to kick off our seven-week journey. A warm, sunny Monday made for a glowing first display led by Active Minds chapter leader, Ashley Vieno. Her fierce enthusiasm trickled down throughout their entire chapter, which lit a spark that was felt all around campus.

I was able to witness a conversation that froze time when a student named Brendan began recalling a story to our other traveling road staffer, Courtney. Brendan opened up about having to call emergency services for a friend who deals with an anxiety disorder, and was thinking about suicide. Shocked in the moment, Brendan had no other choice, even though his friend was completely against him calling the police. The girl he was ultimately saving hated him for two weeks after this incident, but now thanks him for everything he did for her. Brendan wrapped up his vulnerable story with a poignant quote that still hasn’t left my mind. He said, “I’d rather lose a friend, than lose a life”, when referring to his courageous decision to help his friend in the midst of this desperate situation. Brendan can happily report she is now doing very well, and has a full-time job.

Our second stop of the week was at the coastal campus of Cape Cod Community College. Sometimes thought of as just a vacation destination, the tight knit nature of this campus became quite evident, as they fight for one another on a daily basis. This Active Minds chapter has a vicious, but sweet coordinator named Maura, and a strong, passionate leader named Sarah. Together, they represent Active Minds with a full head of steam that is easily felt in their presence.

I overheard a deep conversation being held between a student, and one of our volunteers during the busy lunch rush. The Cape Cod CC student had a profound connection with the display, and felt safe sharing his struggles with depression. He went through a very difficult breakup after being in a four-year relationship in high school. While visibly torn from a mixture of emotions, he told our volunteer that everything started to go downhill for him. After his breakup, he began selling some of his favorite possessions, and even tried to sell his car, only to find out the title of the vehicle was not in his name. He described this time in his life as being his “all time low”, but now continues to scratch and claw his way back towards happiness, and has started to regain his inner confidence to know that he is always enough.

Our week ended with a breezy day at Stevens Institute of Technology, located right on the Hudson river in Hoboken, New Jersey. As gusts of wind swirled around campus, so did our amazing volunteers who led the charge throughout the day. The Stevens chapter, which was started earlier this year by Ashley Peck, gathered tons of student interest by those walking around the display. It’s always great to see the potential recruitment of new members, especially for recently started chapters.

Unfortunately, parts of the day were somber, as we learned of a student who was lost to suicide fairly recently. For those who knew her, this display evoked heavy emotions and a long reflection upon a life lost far too soon. The delicacy of this tragic loss was difficult to deal with at times, and our hearts became quite fragile as the day went on. The chapter will be donating a backpack in honor of their fellow student that will travel along with Send Silence Packing moving forward.

Please check out our Postvention Guide, which was created to help students through the difficult task of responding to a fellow student’s suicide.

Want to learn more about Eric and Courtney, Send Silence Packing Tour Staff? Read below:

Eric Golembiewski

What drew you to apply for this position? 

As someone who has struggled, and still deals with depression and anxiety on a daily basis, I’ve found a true passion and deep fulfillment being involved in the mental health space. I was beyond excited to apply for the Send Silence Packing tour coordinating position, and am incredibly humbled to now represent Active Minds for the Fall 2018 tour across college campuses.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?

While traveling around on our Send Silence Packing tour, I hope to acquire a deeper knowledge and understanding of the mental health field, suicide prevention, and how to change the conversation of these topics on college campuses. My goal is to continue using my warm, caring heart for anyone who needs support, guidance, or encouragement to know that mental illness does not define them.

What does the message behind the Send Silence Packing tour mean to you?

The message behind Send Silence Packing is a constant reminder that reaching out for help is a strength, not a weakness, and no one was meant to walk their journey alone. There is always a new tomorrow full of bright colors and smiles, even through your darkest days. I hope to reflect love, light, and friendship upon everyone I’ll be lucky enough to meet, and also soak up something special from each conversation to carry with me.

Courtney Burke

What drew you to come back for a second tour?

Not many can say they wake up with a fire within them. The opportunity to work as a Tour Coordinator this past spring ignited that flame for me. I woke up every single morning with a burning passion inside of me. How does one walk away from this? After seeing how powerful of an impact the tour had on both myself and so many others, I knew I must return. I am so grateful to be continuing this mission and excited for all the remarkable people I will meet along the way.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?

I hope to gain more knowledge on mental health policy while on the road. Throughout the start of my career in the mental health field, I’ve realized many don’t have access to treatment- whether it be because of waitlists, insurers not covering enough providers, or simply the cost. I’d like to learn more about mental health parity, know what isn’t being followed through with- then use our voices to hold demand change.

What does the message behind the Send Silence Packing tour mean to you?

Send Silence Packing means so much- it’s a healing process for survivors, a wake up call that so many of us struggle at some point, and a message of hope. But most of all, the sense of solidarity it creates. I’ve never before witnessed so many people standing together, being there for one another, and inspiring each other to speak up. Silence is not an option and we are all in this together.