Last fall, the Siena College student community lost one of their own to suicide. On Wednesday, student leaders did their part to end the silence surrounding mental health, with the goal of saving lives.

One thousand backpacks filled the lawn on the Academic Quad at Siena. Each backpack represented a person who died by suicide, and the impact of their loss.

"Send Silence Packing" is an immersive exhibit touring the country meant to encourage people to speak their truth and seek help.

“A lot of these stories you read are about college-aged students, and how a lot of people didn’t even realize that the person who passed away from suicide was going through what they were going through," said Siena College junior and wellness orientation leader Trinity Hogben. "I can personally attest to this. Everyone kind of knows me as the outgoing, confident, involved girl... but some days, it’s hard. Some days, you don’t know if you’re going to see the next day.”

Siena College Associate Director of the Counseling Center Tom Templeton said they’re seeing significant and increased demand for mental health services on campus.

“And I think sometimes, suicide sort of creeps into their minds. But they’re not always aware of the impact, the gravity of what it could mean. And I think this exhibit helps frame the reality that very often, suicide is a permanent solution to what could be a temporary problem,” said Templeton.

Templeton said as a society, we’re not as comfortable speaking about suicide as we need to be, and being open and direct could be a life saving opportunity.

“If you’re concerned, it’s OK to ask the question directly. Are you contemplating suicide? Because some people are just waiting to be unburdened to answer that question truthfully,” said Templeton.

The diversity in stories scattered across Siena’s lawn is a sobering reminder that suicidal ideation does not discriminate.

“It’s very important to bring awareness to it," said Siena College junior and Active Minds vice president Jonathan Limey. "I know events like this are the reason why I’m here today, and so I want other people to be able to say that.”

Support resources are available for students on campus. If you are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, you can call 988 for immediate help.