Content Warning: This piece contains mentions of suicide.
Send Silence Packing® (SSP) is a traveling exhibit with the purpose of opening the conversation about mental health issues that we all face on a daily basis while also providing attendees with the resources available to them on a community and national level.
I decided to become a tour coordinator this fall because it allows me to better my knowledge about mental health and learn different styles and methods that others use to cope and heal. As this semester’s tour comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on some of my standout moments during my time at various sites such as the University of Massachusetts (UMass), Chicago State University, and the University of California, Riverside. This tour demonstrated to me the community-wide impact that the exhibit can have and the importance of continuing programs like Send Silence Packing® because there are so many out there who still need to hear messages of hope and become aware of available resources.
At UMass, a young woman spoke to me about her past experiences visiting the SSP exhibit and how that saved her life. She benefited from our previous tours, and she’s always very curious about seeing the new updates each time we visit. I really enjoyed hearing from her and sharing my experiences during the tour.
Chicago State was a standout moment for me because the student body had no fear of speaking about the problems they were facing. This school was small in population, and they all had big hearts. They had a passionate and heartfelt student speaker, D’Asia Wright, who shared her experience with her sorority sister, who recently died by suicide. She spoke about how easygoing her friend was and the last messages shared between the two friends before the tragedy. The main takeaway from her speech was to check on your friends and be there before it’s too late. I appreciated her for being there; even after a year of grief and uncertainty, she made the move for change within the community.
The University of California (UC) was another standout moment for me because of how eager and exuberant the volunteers were. They worked diligently in spreading the message to the student body that there is a community behind them that will take their hand and lead them out of the darkness. The campus culture at UC Riverside was very supportive of the cause. They had multiple organizations put in place that one could join to feel included throughout the community. The community there also fully covered the space available on our hope wall with words of encouragement for someone who may have been struggling.
SSP was very impactful for all who attended, both first-timers and previous attendees. I believe every person felt the gravity of the exhibit. People on the street at random breaks were curious about how they could get involved and were appreciative of the traveling exhibit. Participants shared the unique experiences they read about or even faced with themselves with me and the volunteers. And many others thanked me for being available and present at each site.
I would 100% recommend Send Silence Packing® to every community and ask that they continue to stay involved by starting a chapter at their school or even sparking the conversation on their own through dialogues with their friends and peers. From my experiences on the road, I believe there are more people who are unaware of the resources available to them, and we need to help them become knowledgeable.