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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quietfornow Oct 5, 2013 8:05pm

"If you… have lost someone to suicide, you are not alone. So speak."

Yes, do speak if you so desire, and if you are able. With courage and nobility and grace. And let it help you heal, and let it help others do the same.

But. If it is simply too big, and your voice has run away, it is ok.

Suicide can be many things, including the harrowing culmination of a perhaps decades-long odyssey, co-lived and outlived by the immeasurably wounded…

…survivors who must commit to their own resilience. And grieve, And heal. Sometimes in unpredictable or inscrutable sequence or time period.

As they shield themselves from curious but painful inquiries that they cannot or choose not to answer.

As they try to discern at what point and in what manner it is appropriate to anoint their children with intensity of this magnitude, as if this is actually determinable.

As they refuse to cause protracted knife-like worry to people they care about, worry that they might take similar action one day. A worry with which they are exhaustedly and tragically intimate, having worried about another for so long. Having safely disembarked from that one last roller coaster ride of many. But this time without their father or mother or son or daughter or friend.

If this, or something that feels similar to you, is your experience, and you cannot speak of it to hardly anyone, it is ok. Do reach out for professional support if you need it.

Be well. Be still. And be quiet if you like.

Rest here, and breathe. You are not alone.

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Andie Britton-Foster

Andie Britton-Foster‘s father was a walnut and her mother was a sparrow. By sheer magic, she was born. She spends her summers planting forests and spends the rest of her seasons teaching yoga in Kingston, ON.