A provocative national traveling exhibit that offers narratives from people impacted by a loved one’s suicide, Glow 5K and keynote speaker—all free public events—will be part of Ohio Northern University’s Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week to take place Sept. 20-24.
Hosted by ONU’s Counseling Center, the programming seeks to heighten awareness and to provide tools to prevent suicide, which is the second-leading cause of death for college-age students in the United States. These upcoming events, which will also include several student-focused activities, are aligned with Ohio Northern’s robust mental health services. Organizers are continuing to prioritize efforts that seek to destigmatize life-impacting conditions such as depression and anxiety and to educate the campus community about mental health assistance resources.
“We want people to understand that if they’re struggling, there’s help available,” says ONU Mental Health Outreach Coordinator Marcey Bell, LISW-S.
Because of increased need and successful awareness initiatives, more ONU students are availing themselves of Counseling Center assistance. According to Center Director Anthony Rivera, Psy.D., demand for services has increased each year for the past five years. During the 2018-19 academic year, 12.4% of the student body visited the Center, while 14.9% (428 students) did so during the 2020-21 school year.
The public and campus community are encouraged to participate in:
Send Silence Packing®
Offered by the national nonprofit Active Minds, the Send Silence Packing exhibit, which provides messages of hope and help, has impacted more than one million visitors since its inaugural display on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 2008. Founded by a college student whose only sibling died by suicide, it includes personal stories from individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide. Its purpose is to create hope out of tragedy. The display seeks to raise awareness about the impact of suicide, connect individuals to mental health resources and inspire action for suicide prevention.
Passersby are invited to walk among the Send Silence Packing backpacks to see the photographs and read the stories attached to them. Many of the backpacks were donated by families who lost a loved one to suicide.
Active Minds says evaluation data attests to the exhibit’s impact—most visitors leave wanting to learn more about mental health and the majority tell three or more people about the exhibit. They may also reach out to a friend in need or seek help for themselves as a result of experiencing it.
Send Silence Packing will take place at ONU on Thursday, Sept. 23, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Approximately 1,000 backpacks will be placed outside between McIntosh Center and the English Chapel. The exhibit’s rain location will be in the McIntosh Center’s Mactivities Room.
Also at the exhibit, representatives will be on hand to interact with visitors and offer information about campus and regional mental health organizations and resources. Participating will be representatives from Active Minds; Prevention Awareness Support Services (PASS) that serves West Central Ohio; Coleman Health Services in Allen and Hardin counties; Wings Support and Recovery based in Marysville, Ohio; ONU’s Counseling Center; and student organizations including the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists and Ohio Northern Veterans Organization (ONVO).
“I think there will be a different type of feel on campus that day,” says Student Affairs Coordinator Thomas Frost.
Glow 5K Run/Walk
This run/walk will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m. The route will begin at ONU’s King Horn Sports Center and take participants along the Green Monster trail and the tundra through the middle of campus. Glow sticks and other items will be provided for this twilight run/walk that, rather than being a fundraiser, seeks to raise awareness about suicide prevention and mental health services.
Organizers are urging participants to register in advance online. Registration forms will also be available at the check-in table on the evening of the event, and can be obtained by emailing Bell at email@example.com or Frost at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keynote speaker Chad Dunlap will offer a dynamic presentation on Thursday, Sept. 23, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at ONU’s English Chapel. As an experienced and esteemed public speaker, Chad delivers education, inspiration and entertainment to a variety of audiences. Conquering many hurdles in his own life, Chad drives home a powerful message to those who are battling heavy topics such as depression or suicide. He strives to make every event a memorable experience, placing a large emphasis on delivering motivational content. His forte is about “upshifting your life.”