Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was our third stop on the Send Silence Packing tour. We spent the day working with a dedicated group of volunteers and interacting with the various student groups that performed during the display. The Active Minds chapter at UNC worked with the Counseling andWellnessCenter, who had staff present for the afternoon. Rachael Datz, UNC’s regional chapter manager, also joined us for the events.
Our location was perfect for the display to grab the attention of students and faculty that were walking through campus. It didn’t take long for someone to come up to me and ask “What are all these backpacks for?” The students at UNC were especially curious about Send Silence Packing being on campus. Aside from the 40+ students that signed up for the Active Minds UNC mailing list, several students started conversation with staff and volunteers about multiple aspects of mental health. They had amazing questions and concerns that evoked a lot of thought, emotion, and deep conversation throughout the day. I could tell that we were already making a noticeable impact on campus, which was nice- because when you work in non-profit, you don’t always get to see the change you make working so quickly.
Family members of Eric Bryant, a UNC student who was lost to suicide in 2010, were present at the display. They donated a backpack and a story for Eric that will travel with Send Silence Packing. Barry Bryant, Eric’s uncle, and his family were grateful for Active Minds and Send Silence Packing and the impact it has on college students. We are also thankful for their support and strength while reaching out to students and other families that may be struggling with suicide and mental health issues. Barry continues to educate people and is currently planning a golf outing in memory of Eric.
UNC’s chapter president, Priya Balagopal, played a huge role in planning and organizing the event. In addition to bringing Send Silence Packing to UNC, she got three different acappella groups – Harmonyx, UNC Walk On’s and the Achordants – and three spoken word groups – EROT (Ebony Readers Onyx Theatre, UNC Wordsmiths and Rejects – to perform throughout the day. The acappella groups had beautiful performances that drew even more interest in the display. Harmonyx stopped an entire tour group as they were being led through campus! The spoken word groups were a powerful addition to the Send Silence Packing event. The student’s performances touched on several different topics of mental health. They spoke of their personal experiences with mental health and carried stories of pain and struggle mixed with hope and triumph.
Students have an amazing way of connecting through experience and support. We see that in action with every campus we visit, and hope to continue that connection with future stops.