When we pulled into Ramapo College, we were greeted by about 25 people ready to help unload the truck and set up the display. This was the largest amount of volunteers that we have had at and display, especially for 8 am! We had fantastic weather throughout the day and the campus was amazingly beautiful. We finally had a warm sunny day on the tour! The weather told us it was time to clean up when it began raining at exactly 4:02, a whole two minutes after the scheduled clean-up started.
Throughout the day, groups of people continued to show up to volunteer. We had a lot of volunteers that stayed through most of the display and most stayed for about half the day. When I talked to the volunteers, a lot of them mentioned that it was very easy to get a lot of people to volunteer for the event because of the sense of community that the campus has. The counseling center was there throughout the day as well as members from LEARN. They were so supportive of the students that were part of Active Minds and worked together to make the display the best it could be.
I heard one of the Active Minds members telling a few of the volunteers that he enjoyed being part of the organization and really liked working with the national office because of the feeling of community. He said that at Active Minds it is a “we’re all doing this together” experience. Whether he was working with the Ramapo chapter, at the conference, or talking to a member at the national office he knew that he was appreciated individually and that he was a part of a whole.
Throughout the tour, it has been great to have that sense of community with the people that we work with at each stop. From the moment I walked into the office in DC, I knew that I was in a comfortable and accepting atmosphere. I believe that we took this feeling through the tour and became an Active Minds family with all of the chapters that we visited. This view of interacting with each person and making a welcoming and pleasant environment is something that has easily been established among Brandon and myself, the Active Minds members, and their volunteers.
Ramapo also hosted a Wellness Walk through the beautiful campus for about an hour during the display. Celena Gray, Executive Director of the NJ Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma, spoke before the walk. She talked about what New Jersey was doing for mental health and shared inspiring words with the walkers. The walk highlighted areas on campus that students could go to focus on mental health, relax, and take care of themselves. A few of the places they visited were: the counseling center building, the campus recreation center and gym, and the Salameno Spiritual Center.
There were several moments of education throughout the day and the volunteers showed their dedication to the display through their interactions with the students that visited. The Ramapo chapter sold bracelets with each color representing students’ experience with personal mental health. The students’ interest in showing their support really conveyed how dedicated they were to learning more about mental health, suicide, and mental illness.
Send Silence Packing brings a powerful and emotional message to college campuses as well as being a positive resource to students. Active Minds members work hard to educate students on resources they can use as well as ways to be a resource to peers. Seeing the ways that Active Minds has motivated students to work toward a bigger feeling of community on campus makes me realize how easy it is to inspire someone to inspire others.