We arrived on the beautiful campus of Oberlin College just after the rain had started for the day. As usual, we made plans for the indoor display and began to unload the bags in the Science Center, when we got news of a potential fire code violation because of the backpacks. After three inspections, and lots of fixing communication breakdowns, we were creative enough to figure out a successful set-up of the backpacks. Chapter president Patrick Doherty was worried after the building manager came to talk to us about the fire code the first time, and was afraid the display wouldn’t run as smoothly as he hoped. He was able to talk to three different people pertaining to three different sets of rules to be able to have the bags where everyone was happy. This experience just goes to show that no matter how much you plan, as Patrick had done, that surprises will find a way to force you to think creatively and work together for a common goal.
Once everything was set, our next challenge was getting people to stop and talk about the display. Throughout the day, we noticed that not many people were willing to talk to us about what was happening on campus. Most conversations that I attempted to start caught people off guard and they seemed to steer away from where I was standing.
This got me thinking. I wanted to stop a student and ask what they thought about their student body and mental health. Why was nobody willing to discuss these important topics? Why were students making sure to avoid discussion about positive mental health?
I was able to talk to a few students and their conclusions were that because Oberlin focuses highly on academics and Oberlin students hold very high standards for themselves, they sometimes forget the importance of their mental health. I also believe that this stands true for many other universities as well. Another student told me that she was unaware of the severity of the topic and that she thinks that many other students may feel the same way. Even though the students aren’t starting conversations with us today, they are going to class or going back home thinking about what kind of an impact suicide has on people and ways to take care of themselves so they can get help before being lost to suicide.
It is important for students to be aware of the importance of mental health so they are able to take care of themselves. It is easy for people to get so absorbed with external factors of every day life, that they sometimes forget that they need to be focusing on ways to improve their mental health.
Students often forget to take care of themselves while they are making sure their grades are good, papers are done, and project deadlines are being met. During the panel discussion “Eat, Sleep, and be Merry: Perspectives on Mental Health at Oberlin,” one of the panelists made a statement that most students know what to do to maintain positive mental health, they just don’t know where to go or how to do it. Send Silence Packing is a perfect way to start a conversation with students about positive mental health and a way for students to find campus and national resources to maintain it.