(Orange)—In an effort to shed light on the tragedy of college student suicide and open a dialogue about a heavily stigmatized topic, Active Minds at Santiago Canyon College (SCC) will be hosting Send Silence Packing, a public education display of 1,100 donated backpacks representing the 1,100 college students lost to suicide every year. The display is slated for Tuesday, September 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Humanities Building lawn.
“Few people realize that suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses and is erasing the future of so many promising young people,” said Melissa Campitelli-Smith, Psy.D., SCC psychologist. “Half of all college students have had suicidal thoughts and one in ten students seriously considers attempting suicide. By displaying backpacks with personal stories of lives lost to suicide, Send Silence Packing carries the message that preventing suicide is not just about lowering statistics, but also about saving the lives of students across the country. We want to let every student know that they are not alone and help is available on campus.”
For Rosemary Touyanou, student services coordinator for the SCC Division of Continuing Education, the Send Silence Packing display hits home. Although the suicide of her friend and co-worker Brian Frankenberg happened in 1987, it feels like yesterday to Touyanou. Frankenberg worked alongside Touyanou in a student loan servicing company while he was a full-time student at Saddleback College. She remembers Frankenberg as being extremely intelligent and as a person who had difficulty fitting into social situations. He was an only child whose parents had him very late in life. As Frankenberg struggled with what may have been depression, working full-time and attending college full-time, his well-loved father was becoming more fragile in his seventies.
“I remember gathering at a co-worker’s home for a barbecue after work on a Friday,” said Touyanou. “Brian was staring at me oddly and when I asked him what was going on, he told me that he was trying to memorize our faces. On Saturday, Brian’s best friend called me to tell me that Brian had shot and killed himself.”
In the aftermath of her friend and co-worker’s suicide, Touyanou wondered if there was more that she could have done. She clearly remembers the conversations she had with her friend that now she can see were warning signs, but she didn’t know then. She is glad that the Send Silence Packing exhibit and the free training for faculty, staff, and administrators will help the campus community know the signs of suicide so that steps can be taken to prevent the unnecessary deaths of college students and others.
“Nobody is immune from suicide,” said Touyanou. “It takes just one person to talk another out of suicide and this exhibit and the available training are the first steps.”
In recent months, SCC has provided Kognito At-Risk, an online training program, to its faculty, staff and administrators so they can be trained to identify and talk to students exhibiting signs of psychological distress who may be at risk for suicide. Once the signs are recognized, efforts will be made to motivate the at-risk students to seek appropriate help. Online training is also available for students.
The Kognito At-Risk program is funded by the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63). It is one of several Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives implemented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of California counties working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. For more information, visit www.calmhsa.org.
Send Silence Packing was developed by Active Minds, Inc., the leading voice for college student mental health in the United States. The national organization has collected and continues to collect backpacks and personal stories in memory of loved ones lost to suicide. By displaying backpacks with personal stories that put a “face” to the lives lost to suicide, Send Silence Packing carries the message that preventing suicide is not just about lowering statistics, but about saving the lives of students, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and friends across the nation.
About Santiago Canyon College
Santiago Canyon College is a public community college of Rancho Santiago Community College District, serving the residents of Anaheim Hills, Orange, Tustin and Villa Park. The college provides education for academic transfer and careers, courses for personal and professional development, and customized training for business and industry.
About Active Minds, Inc.
Active Minds is the leading voice in college student mental health and supports a rapidly growing network of more than 350 student-run chapters on colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada. All chapters work towards one goal: to create a campus culture where it is OK to speak openly about mental health and seek help. A national non-profit headquartered in Washington D.C., Active Minds empowers students to change the conversation about mental health one campus at a time. To learn more, visit www.activeminds.org. For more information about Send Silence Packing and the Fall 2012 Tour, visit www.sendsilencepacking.org.
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