Content Warning: This piece contains mentions of suicide.
I grew up thinking that showing vulnerability was a sign of weakness. That weakness would eventually be taken advantage of, so it was better to keep things locked up. For a long time, I had a hard time opening up. However, through taking a chance and traveling the country speaking to thousands of young adults about mental health for the past three months, I’ve realized that being vulnerable and open about my struggles is the main reason why I am alive.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression during the pandemic, but I had been struggling with it for a long time before being officially diagnosed. As an international student, I felt really homesick and I was also being constantly triggered by past traumas. During my four years in college, I had also struggled with suicidal ideation. I attempted to take my own life twice. It made me feel ashamed and hopeless. Talking about suicide was so triggering for me that I just kept all those feelings inside. Thankfully I had loved ones who encouraged me to go to the counseling center on my campus. It took a lot of strength for me to go even with that support because I grew up in an environment where people looked at it as something shameful. It was so hard for me to take that step but once I did it, it felt good. Reaching out for help has been the best decision.
When I finished college, I decided that I wanted to keep working with Active Minds because I know what it feels like to be at your lowest and I wanted to spread hope and let everyone know that they can do it. Not everyone has the same kind of support that I did, so I wanted to let people know that at least one person cared about what they were going through. I decided to apply to be a Send Silence Packing Display Coordinator and all I can say is that it has been such an amazing experience. Send Silence Packing is a display made up of 1,000 backpacks that travels the country sharing stories of those who have survived suicide, as well as those who have lost a loved one to suicide. It visits dozens of communities each tour, and the display coordinators spend that time interacting with those who come to see the display, listening to their stories, and sharing resources. As a display coordinator, I not only got to travel to different states and cities but I also got to do the work that I love to do and make a difference. Looking back at myself two years ago and how I wasn’t even able to say the word “suicide”, I feel great joy that I was able to help people that were silently struggling like I was for so long.
Send Silence Packing has taught me so much, and it has shown me that while the choice to reach out and get help can be hard for people for a variety of reasons, it is ultimately always worth it. Personally, one of the most impactful parts of the tour has been talking to parents who have lost their children to suicide. Some of the parents have started foundations or joined a mental health awareness non-profit and are now spreading the word about the importance of mental health so that no other parent goes through the same thing. I found that admirable and it moved me. Looking at all the backpacks that we had and all the people who approached me and shared their stories, and thanked me for being there and making this event happen on their campus, has been so rewarding.
Working on Send Silence Packing has changed my life. It inspired me to apply for a master’s program in public policy because I want to be able to help more people on a greater scale by creating policies and making long-lasting changes. If you want the chance to experience adventure while also getting the chance to change lives, I encourage you to apply as a Send Silence Packing Display Coordinator. The opportunity to work in mental health, on campuses and in communities, directly impacting thousands of lives, can’t be emphasized enough; it changed my life, and I’m sure it would change yours too.