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Sending Silence Packing at UVA - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Sending Silence Packing at UVA

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Hundreds of backpacks with a message dotted the University of Virginia's lawn Thursday, and each one told a tragic story.

Every year, 1,100 college students commit suicide, and 1,100 backpacks on the lawn showed students the magnitude of that number.

The nonprofit group Active Minds brought its traveling display to UVA to raise awareness about mental illness.

"A lot of people don't want to talk about depression - it's something that i feel like as a culture we kind of keep to ourselves and we just kind of let it build up," said Clint Sydnor, a student who stopped to take in the letters and pictures from loved ones of suicide victims.

He says the sight of these backpacks and the messages attached to them help people suffering from depression come out of their shells and realize they are not alone.

"I've suffered from depression in the past and so seeing something like this is really good because it shows that there are people out there that want to try and help others that are dealing with this," said Sydnor.

Send Silence Packing aims to spark conversations about mental illness, and encourage students in need to ask for help.

"I think there's a bit of a stigma attached to you know admitting you might need help for a mental health disorder and I really think that's a shame," said Meredith Was, president of the UVA chapter of Active Minds. "I think the stigma prevents people from seeking help."

Volunteers handed out flyers raising awareness about mental illness and resources available to students.  Active Minds says they hope to encourage students to speak up about mental illness and ask for help when they need it, just like they would if they had a cold or a broken leg.

"I'm happy that we are trying to shed light on depression and make people feel better about coming out about things like this," said Sydnor.

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