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October 5, 2013

Send Silence Packing: Let’s Talk About Depression. ~ Andie Britton-Foster

1100 students in the United States alone lose their life to depression each year.

1100 people commit suicide, as they fall into feelings of helplessness and loneliness. 1100 sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends and colleagues decide that their life is not worth the struggle, and see no other way out.

They silence themselves.

Now, statistics are meant to be shocking. I could spew out statistics on food poisoning, on dolphin deaths and on forest devastation for days. Some of these numbers will be made up. Most of them will be exaggerated. All of them will be trying to shock the reader. Statistics have become a common scare tactic, that has dulled in its effect like an overused razor.

Numbers mean nothing to us anymore—so when we learn that 1100 of our peers lose the fight against depression each year, I immediately think “that’s the same number of dolphins who choke on grocery bags every year. I really need to go grocery shopping, what’s in the fridge?”

Send Silence Packing is a movement to give this statistic some weight. Through the student mental health organization Active Minds, Send Silence Packing has taken this number on the road, in the form of backpacks.

We are a visual culture. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; plop a man in front of Youtube, he will entertain himself for 10 hours.

Seeing is believing. And in this case, seeing brings to life a real number that before seemed imaginary. Send Silence Packing tours from city to city, setting up displays of 1100 backpacks around campuses. 1100 backpacks to represent 1100 real human beings who have left this world.

And if you can’t equate a backpack to a human life, the organization makes this statistic even more concrete, by letting each backpack tell the story of a life lost. Every backpack in the display is tagged with a true account of someone who committed suicide. 1100 stories from mouths that were connected to these victims.

1100 stories shared, so that this statistic is no longer a number, but 1100 people that once breathed and loved and suffered.

1100 people, just like you and me.

Let’s open up a discussion around suicide. Let’s strive to break the stigma around depression, so that nobody feels they have to suffer silently and alone.

If you have been affected by depression, or have lost someone to suicide, you are not alone.

So speak.

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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Andie Britton-Foster