ASU suicide exhibit becomes a powerful symbol

 
 
Hundreds of backpacks once owned by students across the country who took their lives were laid out on the lawn of ASU’s main campus as a reminder of a growing plight confronting young people./Pablo Robles/Tribune Staff Writer

By Jim Walsh | East Valley Tribune

An Arizona State University student broke into tears when she saw hundreds of backpacks – owned by students who had completed suicide – scattered on a lawn outside the Student Services building last week.

The stark but powerful exhibit brought back memories of how Charlie Zakanycz’s little brother had contemplated taking his own life and how a friend had taken her own life.

“Mental health shouldn’t be stigmatized,” Zakanycz said, noting that her brother sought counseling and she hopes the exhibit will motivate others to do the same.

The backpacks comprise Active Minds’ “Send Silence Packing” exhibit, which is being taken across the country to college campuses. Each backpack includes a letter from a loved one or a note about its deceased owner.

The exhibit has been viewed by more than 900,000 people since its debut on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2008. The ASU exhibit was its first in Arizona and another is planned at the University of Arizona on April 29.

Katherine Moeur, who is enrolling to pursue a master’s in education to become a science teacher, said she went through a rough time mentally in high school. She said no teachers helped her through that period in her life, but she wants to do a better job helping her future students.

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