EMU’s SAFE Now hosted the third annual Walk for Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Awareness on Friday, Sept. 27. The event aimed to start a conversation about mental health and suicide prevention in a way that will raise awareness and reduce the stigma. It was co-hosted by Active Minds and CAPS.
About 60 people arrived at the Lake House to show their support despite the rainy fall weather. After registering for the walk, participants were able to choose from an assortment of different beaded necklaces. Each color of necklaces represented a different reason for attending the event whether it was your own struggle, a loved one’s struggle or to show solidarity with everyone who struggles with issues of mental health.
The event featured a walk around the university pond, a display of 110 backpacks, a raffle and multiple student organization booths including Active Minds and Planned Parenthood Next Generation.
Ellen Gold, dean of students, opened the ceremony with a thank you to all of the students and organizations that attended. She was followed by Calvin Phillips, associate vice president of student affairs at Eastern Michigan University.
“The impact that we have on the lives of students ... is dear to my heart in terms of understanding the importance of helping each and every student feel like they belong, that they’re valued and that there’s someone here who cares for you,” Phillips said, adding how data from across the nation show stress and anxiety have a significant impact on student mental health. “We cannot stand around and allow people to feel like there’s no one here that will support them.”
The display of 110 backpacks on the pond steps is a powerful and moving way for ‘Send Silence Packing’ to raise suicide awareness. There are 1,100 college students who lost their lives to suicide this last year; each backpack represents 10 of those lives. Several of the backpacks contain stories about the students and their lives before they died.
“The Send Silence Packing display is the most influential thing that we have ... it is an amazing representative as to why we are here. We are here for those students,” says Madelyn Dooling, president of Active Minds. “[Many of the students have stories saying] ‘This student was super involved in their community and nobody knew how they were feeling’ and it makes you think about your friends who may be struggling and you just have no idea.”
The topics of suicide and mental health awareness are close to Dooling’s heart. When she started attending EMU, her high school saw a significant increase in suicides of students, including someone who was close to her.
“It hits really close to home,“ Dooling said. "I want to advocate for the people who can’t advocate for themselves.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or struggling with other issues of mental health, reach out to EMU’s CAPS at 313 Snow Health Center or by calling 734-487-1118.