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Embracing the uncomfortable: A visual conversation about suicide

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Reader warning: The content of this piece discusses suicide. For some readers, the topic of may cause discomfort.

Oklahoma State held a soul-touching and eye-opening event to prevent suicide Thursday on the Life Science East Lawn. 

The “Send Silence Packing” event was brought to the university by Active Minds, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising mental health awareness among college students.

The exhibit had a sea of backpacks spread on the lawn, each one symbolizing either someone died by suicide or of the family members impacted by the loss of a loved one. 

Throughout the day, hundreds of OSU students stopped at the sight of the backpacks without fully realizing what was happening or what meanings it held.

Their curiosity started a conversation right then and there, and even though everyone interprets things differently, it was clear how touched and relieved people were to know it’s okay to talk about mental health.

Lauren Garcia, a sophomore at OSU looked around cautiously and was impressed.

“This conversation needs to be addressed more often, even if it’s uncomfortable.” Garcia said. “This event addresses the issue visually, and it helps people understand that so many lives are lost to suicide daily. I myself was not expecting to see this many backpacks and it puts everything into perspective."

Other organizations were at the event. The University Counseling Services and many of its professionals was there to inform students about how and where they can reach out safely for help here on campus.

For instance, the counseling services has a virtual walk-in clinic, group and student counseling. Additionally, students can unwind in the OSU Reboot Center.

Stephen Scott, the clinical counselor at the counseling services, was there to not only share pieces of information but also to listen to students who needed to talk. 

This event's focus was to help destigmatize talking about mental health, while reminding students it is OK to not be OK and there are people out there ready to help them.

“We want to use this experience to continue the conversation, we don’t want to stop here," Scott said while pointing at the bags. "Talks save lives. We are trying to end this. We are trying to end the silence.” 

Student can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 or University Counseling Services at 405-744-5458.