Traveling display stops in GB, shows personal impacts of suicide

By Heather Sawaski, Local 5 News

Published 03/26 2014 05:09PM

Updated 03/26 2014 05:13PM

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) - Pictures, messages and memories. Each backpack tells a personal story.

"What we have out here is 1,100 backpacks and they represent the number of student lives lost to suicide each year in the U.S," explained Brandon Doman, with Active Minds.

Send Silence Packing is a program from Active Minds, a national organization which aims to engage students in a conversation about mental health. On Wednesday, the traveling exhibit made a stop at NWTC in Green Bay.

"This is something that could happen to anybody," said Doman. "There are a lot of people out there struggling silently and it's because a lot of people don't know how to talk about mental health."

Ananh Phomsena stopped on his way to class. He said he battled depression for years and feels a personal connection to these names and faces.

"I'm going to be 27 this year so everytime that I thought about committing suicide, I would think about my brothers," he said.

Over the past three years, suicide rates in Brown County have been slowly increasing. A fraction of the deaths have been college-aged, young adults.

"To know they weren't able to receive the services that might have helped them out or are unable to see that their future could get brighter is really sad and is really a great tragedy," commented Paul Valencic, an NWTC mental health counselor.

NWTC offers free counseling for students and organizers hope putting faces to statistics will help some get over the stigma of asking for help.

"I think we do a really good job of providing those resources," said Valencic. "It's sometimes connecting those resources to students can be very difficult."

"Seeing all these backpacks, it makes me really sad," added Phomsena. "I'm going to try really hard that one of these backpacks is not going to have me on there."

For more information on local ways to seek help, click here.

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