Why we should invest in better mental health for children

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What is good mental health? - Health & Wellbeing

Much of the conversation about mental health focuses on mental illness. But there’s more to mental wellbeing than simply being without mental illness.

I thought this was a pretty good article.

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Survey shows veterans relying on VA as primary source of mental health care

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Mental Health Tools: From Office To Pocket - InformationWeek

If you don’t feel like reading through the article, I compiled a few blurbs of what’s suggested. But PLEASE REMEMBER that these are NOT substitutes for professional, face-to-face assistance!

My3: This free app, available for both Google Android and Apple iOS, lets users anonymously and privately screen themselves for mental conditions such as depression, suicidal feelings, or bipolar disorder. Users can create a support network by adding contact information for friends, counselors, and family; build a safety toolbox of coping strategies and supportive people; and easily access support resources such as the National Suicide Hotline from within the app.

Ginger.io: Ginger.io’s Android and iPhone apps use data from your phone to safely and securely watch for days when your health may take a hit. They then connect you with care providers who can step in when it matters most.

Suicide Lifeguard: A FREE app intended for anyone concerned that someone they know may be thinking of suicide. It provides information on how to recognize warning signs of suicide, how to ask about suicidal thoughts and/or intentions, how to respond, and where to refer. Features include immediate connection to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, direct access to national and Missouri resource websites, and specific resources for Military/Veterans, those who identify as LGBTQ, Spanish speaking individuals, and persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Mobilyze: An mHealth app designed to teach people to manage depressive symptoms using traditional methods, such as providing information and tools to implement evidence-based techniques to improve mood. The app has two goals: to support patients with depression in making changes in behavior that will reduce or eliminate depressive symptoms, and to develop a system that learns to identify patients’ states at any given moment, allowing Mobilyze to reach out and intervene in real-time.

PTSD Coach: The US Department of Veterans Affairs developed PTSD Coach, a free app that’s been downloaded more than 100,000 times in 74 nations, according to the agency. In addition to providing general information on PTSD and its treatments, the app offers tools for screening and tracking PTSD, ways to handle stress, and links to organizations that offer support and assistance.

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Anonymous said:
i really think people are over-reacting. i mean yes some individual people would be negatively affected by it, but overall that display does WAY more good than harm. Really what do these people expect you to do, post signs all over campus like "TW: HONEST DISPLAY." seriously theyre backpacks not anything graphic. my brother committed suicide, ive had depression/suicidal thoughts for ten years. youre doing way more good raising awareness. and if you dont like it, shield your eyes and walk past it  

scienceofeds:

psychhealth:

It’s true that there isn’t anything visually graphic, but to be fair, it is an intense and emotional display. I agree with others that in the future it should be done in a less unavoidable part of campus so they have more of an option to avoid if it they need to.

Regardless, thank you for your input. <3

Uh, people are not over-reacting. They are being honest about their feelings. That’s not over-reacting. That’s reacting honestly. Silencing others’ feelings is the very problem that this display tries to counter, so why silence those who have negative reactions to the display?! 

I wonder how many of those who have committed suicide been told that they are over-reacting to something.

The irony of this is rich. 

Nevermind that raising awareness isn’t by default a good thing. One, we can be raising awareness and perpetuating myths at the same time. Two, we can be raising awareness without providing solutions or viable resources for action. Also not a good thing. 

We shouldn’t just blindly accept that any awareness raising campaign is a good thing. We need evidence of short and long-term outcomes.

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Charities help fill gaps in children’s mental health services

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makingalifewithouted:

psychhealth:

betterthandarkchocolate:

psychhealth:

scienceofeds:

psychhealth:

seatentsina:

psychhealth:

kyssandrith:

laughatthestars:

today, my school hosted an exhibit for suicide awareness day. the exhibit included 1,100 backpacks in representation of the number of lives that are lost to mental illness each year on college campuses. many of these backpacks were donated by the families that lost loved ones and had their stories attached. i’m so proud of my school for bringing attention to such a serious issue.

…yeah, but this would be EXTREMELY triggering to me if I had to navigate this just to get to fucking class. 

You can raise awareness of this stuff with similar concepts in ways that don’t force people who have actually gone through that shit to face it to this magnitude- when all you were trying to do was get from point A to point B to meet your responsibilities.

This reeks of “photo op” more than it does “actually helpful demonstration.” I mean, what the fuck is scattering these everywhere going to accomplish? Are people going to allocate more money to the university counseling services now? Shame suicidal people less for being sick? I fucking doubt it.

Gonna speak on behalf of Active Minds GMU here as el former presidente and volunteer at the display. For the record, Send Silence Packing was hosted by Active Minds GMU, a local chapter of the only national student-led mental health advocacy nonprofit, and Mason Cares, the suicide prevention division of our campus’ counseling and psychological services.

We did have a few students touch on the fact that the event was triggering. Yes, the display evoked painful emotions, and it was certainly designed for that shock factor, but that was the point—to emphasize that the issue of mental health is one that touches more than just those personally affected and that it is a widespread problem needing immediate attention. It put a human, tangible face to the numbers that often seem so abstract and it allowed families and friends to have their loved ones’ stories heard, to show that they were people leading normal lives just as we all do.

Oftentimes what is so difficult about mental health promotion—as with any social issue—is that it tends to only be advocated for by those who’ve experienced it either themselves or through a loved one, making it difficult for those unaffected to care about the problem. We found that Send Silence Packing touched students who didn’t necessarily have that personal connection, which is awesome, and due in part, I think, to that shock factor.

Furthermore, we had dozens of email sign ups by students and community members that wanted to get involved with Active Minds and mental health advocacy on campus. Never before in our three years on campus had we received such a large interest in our organization. The Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences took a personal interest in our organization and is now interested in working with Active Minds. And our university’s president—who had previously never responded to any of our attempts to get him to acknowledge the mental health problems among students—posted about the suicide prevention event on his twitter that has 11,000+ followers. For the first time in three years. Even though it took a local news article about Send Silence Packing to motivate him to do so, I think it’s an important first step nonetheless. Will change happen in the next few weeks, months, or even years? Maybe not, but change is slow. Active Minds’ goal is to start conversations about mental health and the display did just that but on a much larger scale than any of our past events have accomplished.

Returning to the triggering aspect, we did have a minimum of one psychologist or social worker on scene throughout the event. We also had signs posted around the display with positive messages and the number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, multiple tables with mental health and crisis resources, and representatives from NAMI, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the Wounded Warriors Project with their own resources.

So on some level, was Send Silence Packing a photo op? Yes, of course. But I hope I have convinced you that the coverage was only a nice byproduct of what we hoped to achieve with the event.

I really appreciate the positive experiences you’ve had with Active Minds but I have to agree with that second poster. My first school tried to bring this exhibit, and a few friends and I - all of whom were/are suicidal, had a loved one commit suicide, or both - got together to speak to Active Minds (which iirc was mostly led by non-mentally ill psych majors) about why this was a bad idea. Granted, I don’t believe they were going to do the same add-ons as your school (signs with positive messages, on-site psychologists, etc), but my opinion about this exhibit still stands.

Like, it’s really great how much positive support this exhibit attracted at your school, and I’m happy for you that you turned out such numbers and that your uni’s president spoke out in favor of it, but it worries me a little bit that that seems more important than maintaining the well-being of those you’re trying to advocate for. 

If you had to choose between gaining support and having your mentally ill classmates go to class, or them avoiding some kind of breakdown, or them not giving into suicidal urges, which would you choose?

(Not to mention other potential issues with backpacks just lying around, which is something I hadn’t even thought of until a friend brought it up, for students who were living in NYC in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 who had it drilled into them to be suspicious of abandoned backpacks, a scene like this might be very alarming/potentially triggering.)

Like I really wish it were easier to publicly advocate for issues like suicide prevention, and getting lots of attention is super helpful, but I think it’s also really important to keep in mind what cost it comes at.

I can definitely appreciate that perspective and I’ll pass it on to the exec board because it’s a really important one and something we, to be completely honest, hadn’t really thought of.

All I can really think to say in response is that the majority of people involved in planning and carrying out the event have a mental illness, so it’s not as though we’re blindly advocating for a cause that hasn’t personally affected us. A few of them are suicide survivors. A few of them know someone who has died by suicide. Many people who came up to the display to thank us for having it up fell into those categories.

So the positive responses we’ve received from people who fit in those categories have far out outweighed the negative. Not that the negative responses aren’t extremely important to consider, but you’re not speaking for all mentally ill people when you say Send Silence Packing came at an emotional cost for them.

Also, it’s a requirement for the display to have a counselor on site as well as to have mental health resources readily available.

I think something like this would really negatively affect me, and I don’t have a history of suicidal ideation or suicidal attempts, but it would still really affect me a lot for a lot of various reasons. And, frankly, I am not sure it does much to promote awareness or fight stigma. 

It would make me feel hopeless, shitty, and upset. And powerless. Awareness is important, but without avenues for positive actions or something to make people feel hopeful or at least not powerless, is it actually beneficial? 

I dunno. These are just my $0.02. I haven’t thought deeply about it, nor do I know the results (e.g., what the responses have been), what are the long-term effects (e.g., does it actually increase awareness in the long-term? increase the number of people seeking help? or decrease stigma?), but I know that I’d be very negatively affected by it. 

I don’t know, maybe this is super unrelated, but it is like seeing some representation of the number of people who have died as a result of civil wars or genocide or violence against women or something. Those instances always make me feel so powerless and so, so shitty that I end up feeling *extremely* triggered (ED-wise). Mostly because, in my experience, such events/representations are not accompanied by realistic and meaningful ways to fight against the shittiness. I dunno. This is pretty random. I haven’t thought much about it. I’m interested to see what psychhealth thinks. I’m not really aware of how these events are organized/run/what resources are offered, so maybe I am really wrong/misunderstanding things. 

Okay, another good point. I don’t know what sorts of avenues you’d want there to be offered at the display but as I mentioned previously in this slew of posts, there are representatives from other local mental health organizations (AFSP, NAMI, and Wounded Warriors) that have resources for you to pursue, support groups, etc., and we offered a TON of educational material about mental illness, sexual assault, substance abuse, etc. And, of course, the option to sign up with any of those orgs including Active Minds to join the cause. What else would you want to see at an event like this?

I don’t have any info on the effectiveness display other than this, which I found on Active Minds, Inc.’s web page:

"Since the inaugural display in 2008 on the National Mall in Washington, DC, Send Silence Packing has traveled to more than 70 cities in states across the country. Program evaluation data reveals that individuals leave the display wanting to learn more about mental health. 91 percent of survey respondents rate the display as powerful or very powerful and 83 percent report that it is educational. Our evaluations also show that the majority of visitors tell three or more people about Send Silence Packing and many reach out to a friend in need or seek help for themselves as a result of seeing the program."

The powerful stat doesn’t mean much, obviously, but the others?

I think the most important question for me about this is: Did you warn or announce the nature of the display before the event?

I have lost my friends to suicide, I have almost lost family and I have a history of attempts. I’m in a better place now and I use my experiences to try and help others struggling with mental illness through volunteer work and my study.

If I saw this on my campus and it caught me unaware it would be catastrophic for me. I appreciate you had stands to get help but I would never approach them due to my extreme trust issues.

University for me is a place of healing and recovery, but I am admittedly sensitive to displays that force me to consider my previous actions. All in all I think it’s important to try and lift the bias on talking about suicide and you have been thoughtful enough to provide support with the event.

However, this is a very sensitive issue for some. I have no doubt many students struggle with this either personally or vicariously.

That is why it is incredibly important for events like this to allow give content or trigger warnings. Which allows students (like myself) to not attend class that day/mentally brace myself to avoid serious emotional repercussions. 

We did announce it through the org’s social media as well as our own personal social media, put up flyers around school, and it was on the school’s event calendar. However, there could not be any formal university announcement as University Relations said they would not be associated with the event.

laughatthestars
I think it is really amazing that your school did this. I want our Active Minds group to do this. Despite all the criticism and hate you are getting about this event being triggering, remember that everyone has different triggers and you can’t protect them from everything. It sounds like you were equipped with all the proper resources to handle emotions and urges that came up, and that is awesome! Don’t change a thing! Also, from my psych major and personal anxiety/depression/self harm/eating disorder/borderline experiences - this event would not be triggering. I also feel that if someone is so unstable that an event like this causes them want to hurt themselves, then maybe it is not best for that person to be on campus in the first place for safety reasons and they should consider seeking serious help for their mental illness and coming back when they are stable. I get events like this bring up bad memories and emotional dysregulation, but if you struggle with a mental illness and go to college, you need to be prepared to face these things in the real world. Active Minds as a whole is an amazing organization that has done amazing work and doesn’t do what it does blindly and without thought to how its programming and actions will impact others. Triggers happen and they are not the fault of this program. Keep doing what you’re doing!

Thanks for piping in. :) And hello to a fellow lover of Active Minds!

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Anonymous said:
i really think people are over-reacting. i mean yes some individual people would be negatively affected by it, but overall that display does WAY more good than harm. Really what do these people expect you to do, post signs all over campus like "TW: HONEST DISPLAY." seriously theyre backpacks not anything graphic. my brother committed suicide, ive had depression/suicidal thoughts for ten years. youre doing way more good raising awareness. and if you dont like it, shield your eyes and walk past it  

It’s true that there isn’t anything visually graphic, but to be fair, it is an intense and emotional display. I agree with others that in the future it should be done in a less unavoidable part of campus so they have more of an option to avoid if it they need to.

Regardless, thank you for your input. <3

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Anonymous said:
I can see that you don't want to harm people, but honestly in reality the only way not to harm people is to do nothing-- but doing nothing harms people because it lets things perpetuate in silence. The display was probably shocking, yeah. But I'm sorry, we probably should be shocked by bad things. We shouldn't be able to walk past them without feeling anything. We should be moved. I think your pursuit to raise awareness is good (from someone with depression, and past suicidal thoughts)  

Thank you, I really appreciate that.

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Womp. My self-esteem ain’t high enough atm to handle being attacked for not wording my thoughts well or having my character questioned based on a few blog posts (thanks, anons). I know it comes with the interwebz and that it’s just the interwebz but sadness abounds. I feel really bad that people were so negatively affected by the display and think that it was meant to be nothing but a photo op. So anyway, I’m taking a hiatus from the blog a bit. Plz don’t hate me. Or hate me more than you already do, apparently. :(

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betterthandarkchocolate said:
Excellent. That was my only really nagging concern about the event. It seems like you have done your best to not only raise awareness of the issue but also to be mindful of the sensitive nature of the topic.  

Thank you!

For the record, everyone, I am an alumnus of Active Minds GMU and was not formally involved with the event. Please don’t let your perception of me influence your perception of such a wonderful, motivated, and passionate group of people. I promise you that I—and these people—sincerely care about mental health.

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betterthandarkchocolate:

psychhealth:

scienceofeds:

psychhealth:

seatentsina:

psychhealth:

kyssandrith:

laughatthestars:

today, my school hosted an exhibit for suicide awareness day. the exhibit included 1,100 backpacks in representation of the number of lives that are lost to mental illness each year on college campuses. many of these backpacks were donated by the families that lost loved ones and had their stories attached. i’m so proud of my school for bringing attention to such a serious issue.

…yeah, but this would be EXTREMELY triggering to me if I had to navigate this just to get to fucking class. 

You can raise awareness of this stuff with similar concepts in ways that don’t force people who have actually gone through that shit to face it to this magnitude- when all you were trying to do was get from point A to point B to meet your responsibilities.

This reeks of “photo op” more than it does “actually helpful demonstration.” I mean, what the fuck is scattering these everywhere going to accomplish? Are people going to allocate more money to the university counseling services now? Shame suicidal people less for being sick? I fucking doubt it.

Gonna speak on behalf of Active Minds GMU here as el former presidente and volunteer at the display. For the record, Send Silence Packing was hosted by Active Minds GMU, a local chapter of the only national student-led mental health advocacy nonprofit, and Mason Cares, the suicide prevention division of our campus’ counseling and psychological services.

We did have a few students touch on the fact that the event was triggering. Yes, the display evoked painful emotions, and it was certainly designed for that shock factor, but that was the point—to emphasize that the issue of mental health is one that touches more than just those personally affected and that it is a widespread problem needing immediate attention. It put a human, tangible face to the numbers that often seem so abstract and it allowed families and friends to have their loved ones’ stories heard, to show that they were people leading normal lives just as we all do.

Oftentimes what is so difficult about mental health promotion—as with any social issue—is that it tends to only be advocated for by those who’ve experienced it either themselves or through a loved one, making it difficult for those unaffected to care about the problem. We found that Send Silence Packing touched students who didn’t necessarily have that personal connection, which is awesome, and due in part, I think, to that shock factor.

Furthermore, we had dozens of email sign ups by students and community members that wanted to get involved with Active Minds and mental health advocacy on campus. Never before in our three years on campus had we received such a large interest in our organization. The Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences took a personal interest in our organization and is now interested in working with Active Minds. And our university’s president—who had previously never responded to any of our attempts to get him to acknowledge the mental health problems among students—posted about the suicide prevention event on his twitter that has 11,000+ followers. For the first time in three years. Even though it took a local news article about Send Silence Packing to motivate him to do so, I think it’s an important first step nonetheless. Will change happen in the next few weeks, months, or even years? Maybe not, but change is slow. Active Minds’ goal is to start conversations about mental health and the display did just that but on a much larger scale than any of our past events have accomplished.

Returning to the triggering aspect, we did have a minimum of one psychologist or social worker on scene throughout the event. We also had signs posted around the display with positive messages and the number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, multiple tables with mental health and crisis resources, and representatives from NAMI, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the Wounded Warriors Project with their own resources.

So on some level, was Send Silence Packing a photo op? Yes, of course. But I hope I have convinced you that the coverage was only a nice byproduct of what we hoped to achieve with the event.

I really appreciate the positive experiences you’ve had with Active Minds but I have to agree with that second poster. My first school tried to bring this exhibit, and a few friends and I - all of whom were/are suicidal, had a loved one commit suicide, or both - got together to speak to Active Minds (which iirc was mostly led by non-mentally ill psych majors) about why this was a bad idea. Granted, I don’t believe they were going to do the same add-ons as your school (signs with positive messages, on-site psychologists, etc), but my opinion about this exhibit still stands.

Like, it’s really great how much positive support this exhibit attracted at your school, and I’m happy for you that you turned out such numbers and that your uni’s president spoke out in favor of it, but it worries me a little bit that that seems more important than maintaining the well-being of those you’re trying to advocate for. 

If you had to choose between gaining support and having your mentally ill classmates go to class, or them avoiding some kind of breakdown, or them not giving into suicidal urges, which would you choose?

(Not to mention other potential issues with backpacks just lying around, which is something I hadn’t even thought of until a friend brought it up, for students who were living in NYC in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 who had it drilled into them to be suspicious of abandoned backpacks, a scene like this might be very alarming/potentially triggering.)

Like I really wish it were easier to publicly advocate for issues like suicide prevention, and getting lots of attention is super helpful, but I think it’s also really important to keep in mind what cost it comes at.

I can definitely appreciate that perspective and I’ll pass it on to the exec board because it’s a really important one and something we, to be completely honest, hadn’t really thought of.

All I can really think to say in response is that the majority of people involved in planning and carrying out the event have a mental illness, so it’s not as though we’re blindly advocating for a cause that hasn’t personally affected us. A few of them are suicide survivors. A few of them know someone who has died by suicide. Many people who came up to the display to thank us for having it up fell into those categories.

So the positive responses we’ve received from people who fit in those categories have far out outweighed the negative. Not that the negative responses aren’t extremely important to consider, but you’re not speaking for all mentally ill people when you say Send Silence Packing came at an emotional cost for them.

Also, it’s a requirement for the display to have a counselor on site as well as to have mental health resources readily available.

I think something like this would really negatively affect me, and I don’t have a history of suicidal ideation or suicidal attempts, but it would still really affect me a lot for a lot of various reasons. And, frankly, I am not sure it does much to promote awareness or fight stigma. 

It would make me feel hopeless, shitty, and upset. And powerless. Awareness is important, but without avenues for positive actions or something to make people feel hopeful or at least not powerless, is it actually beneficial? 

I dunno. These are just my $0.02. I haven’t thought deeply about it, nor do I know the results (e.g., what the responses have been), what are the long-term effects (e.g., does it actually increase awareness in the long-term? increase the number of people seeking help? or decrease stigma?), but I know that I’d be very negatively affected by it. 

I don’t know, maybe this is super unrelated, but it is like seeing some representation of the number of people who have died as a result of civil wars or genocide or violence against women or something. Those instances always make me feel so powerless and so, so shitty that I end up feeling *extremely* triggered (ED-wise). Mostly because, in my experience, such events/representations are not accompanied by realistic and meaningful ways to fight against the shittiness. I dunno. This is pretty random. I haven’t thought much about it. I’m interested to see what psychhealth thinks. I’m not really aware of how these events are organized/run/what resources are offered, so maybe I am really wrong/misunderstanding things. 

Okay, another good point. I don’t know what sorts of avenues you’d want there to be offered at the display but as I mentioned previously in this slew of posts, there are representatives from other local mental health organizations (AFSP, NAMI, and Wounded Warriors) that have resources for you to pursue, support groups, etc., and we offered a TON of educational material about mental illness, sexual assault, substance abuse, etc. And, of course, the option to sign up with any of those orgs including Active Minds to join the cause. What else would you want to see at an event like this?

I don’t have any info on the effectiveness display other than this, which I found on Active Minds, Inc.’s web page:

"Since the inaugural display in 2008 on the National Mall in Washington, DC, Send Silence Packing has traveled to more than 70 cities in states across the country. Program evaluation data reveals that individuals leave the display wanting to learn more about mental health. 91 percent of survey respondents rate the display as powerful or very powerful and 83 percent report that it is educational. Our evaluations also show that the majority of visitors tell three or more people about Send Silence Packing and many reach out to a friend in need or seek help for themselves as a result of seeing the program."

The powerful stat doesn’t mean much, obviously, but the others?

I think the most important question for me about this is: Did you warn or announce the nature of the display before the event?

I have lost my friends to suicide, I have almost lost family and I have a history of attempts. I’m in a better place now and I use my experiences to try and help others struggling with mental illness through volunteer work and my study.

If I saw this on my campus and it caught me unaware it would be catastrophic for me. I appreciate you had stands to get help but I would never approach them due to my extreme trust issues.

University for me is a place of healing and recovery, but I am admittedly sensitive to displays that force me to consider my previous actions. All in all I think it’s important to try and lift the bias on talking about suicide and you have been thoughtful enough to provide support with the event.

However, this is a very sensitive issue for some. I have no doubt many students struggle with this either personally or vicariously.

That is why it is incredibly important for events like this to allow give content or trigger warnings. Which allows students (like myself) to not attend class that day/mentally brace myself to avoid serious emotional repercussions. 

We did announce it through the org’s social media as well as our own personal social media, put up flyers around school, and it was on the school’s event calendar. However, there could not be any formal university announcement as University Relations said they would not be associated with the event.

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Kaiser To Pay $4M Fine Over Violations of Calif. Mental Health Laws - California Healthline

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scienceofeds:

psychhealth:

seatentsina:

psychhealth:

kyssandrith:

laughatthestars:

today, my school hosted an exhibit for suicide awareness day. the exhibit included 1,100 backpacks in representation of the number of lives that are lost to mental illness each year on college campuses. many of these backpacks were donated by the families that lost loved ones and had their stories attached. i’m so proud of my school for bringing attention to such a serious issue.

…yeah, but this would be EXTREMELY triggering to me if I had to navigate this just to get to fucking class. 

You can raise awareness of this stuff with similar concepts in ways that don’t force people who have actually gone through that shit to face it to this magnitude- when all you were trying to do was get from point A to point B to meet your responsibilities.

This reeks of “photo op” more than it does “actually helpful demonstration.” I mean, what the fuck is scattering these everywhere going to accomplish? Are people going to allocate more money to the university counseling services now? Shame suicidal people less for being sick? I fucking doubt it.

Gonna speak on behalf of Active Minds GMU here as el former presidente and volunteer at the display. For the record, Send Silence Packing was hosted by Active Minds GMU, a local chapter of the only national student-led mental health advocacy nonprofit, and Mason Cares, the suicide prevention division of our campus’ counseling and psychological services.

We did have a few students touch on the fact that the event was triggering. Yes, the display evoked painful emotions, and it was certainly designed for that shock factor, but that was the point—to emphasize that the issue of mental health is one that touches more than just those personally affected and that it is a widespread problem needing immediate attention. It put a human, tangible face to the numbers that often seem so abstract and it allowed families and friends to have their loved ones’ stories heard, to show that they were people leading normal lives just as we all do.

Oftentimes what is so difficult about mental health promotion—as with any social issue—is that it tends to only be advocated for by those who’ve experienced it either themselves or through a loved one, making it difficult for those unaffected to care about the problem. We found that Send Silence Packing touched students who didn’t necessarily have that personal connection, which is awesome, and due in part, I think, to that shock factor.

Furthermore, we had dozens of email sign ups by students and community members that wanted to get involved with Active Minds and mental health advocacy on campus. Never before in our three years on campus had we received such a large interest in our organization. The Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences took a personal interest in our organization and is now interested in working with Active Minds. And our university’s president—who had previously never responded to any of our attempts to get him to acknowledge the mental health problems among students—posted about the suicide prevention event on his twitter that has 11,000+ followers. For the first time in three years. Even though it took a local news article about Send Silence Packing to motivate him to do so, I think it’s an important first step nonetheless. Will change happen in the next few weeks, months, or even years? Maybe not, but change is slow. Active Minds’ goal is to start conversations about mental health and the display did just that but on a much larger scale than any of our past events have accomplished.

Returning to the triggering aspect, we did have a minimum of one psychologist or social worker on scene throughout the event. We also had signs posted around the display with positive messages and the number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, multiple tables with mental health and crisis resources, and representatives from NAMI, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the Wounded Warriors Project with their own resources.

So on some level, was Send Silence Packing a photo op? Yes, of course. But I hope I have convinced you that the coverage was only a nice byproduct of what we hoped to achieve with the event.

I really appreciate the positive experiences you’ve had with Active Minds but I have to agree with that second poster. My first school tried to bring this exhibit, and a few friends and I - all of whom were/are suicidal, had a loved one commit suicide, or both - got together to speak to Active Minds (which iirc was mostly led by non-mentally ill psych majors) about why this was a bad idea. Granted, I don’t believe they were going to do the same add-ons as your school (signs with positive messages, on-site psychologists, etc), but my opinion about this exhibit still stands.

Like, it’s really great how much positive support this exhibit attracted at your school, and I’m happy for you that you turned out such numbers and that your uni’s president spoke out in favor of it, but it worries me a little bit that that seems more important than maintaining the well-being of those you’re trying to advocate for. 

If you had to choose between gaining support and having your mentally ill classmates go to class, or them avoiding some kind of breakdown, or them not giving into suicidal urges, which would you choose?

(Not to mention other potential issues with backpacks just lying around, which is something I hadn’t even thought of until a friend brought it up, for students who were living in NYC in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 who had it drilled into them to be suspicious of abandoned backpacks, a scene like this might be very alarming/potentially triggering.)

Like I really wish it were easier to publicly advocate for issues like suicide prevention, and getting lots of attention is super helpful, but I think it’s also really important to keep in mind what cost it comes at.

I can definitely appreciate that perspective and I’ll pass it on to the exec board because it’s a really important one and something we, to be completely honest, hadn’t really thought of.

All I can really think to say in response is that the majority of people involved in planning and carrying out the event have a mental illness, so it’s not as though we’re blindly advocating for a cause that hasn’t personally affected us. A few of them are suicide survivors. A few of them know someone who has died by suicide. Many people who came up to the display to thank us for having it up fell into those categories.

So the positive responses we’ve received from people who fit in those categories have far out outweighed the negative. Not that the negative responses aren’t extremely important to consider, but you’re not speaking for all mentally ill people when you say Send Silence Packing came at an emotional cost for them.

Also, it’s a requirement for the display to have a counselor on site as well as to have mental health resources readily available.

I think something like this would really negatively affect me, and I don’t have a history of suicidal ideation or suicidal attempts, but it would still really affect me a lot for a lot of various reasons. And, frankly, I am not sure it does much to promote awareness or fight stigma. 

It would make me feel hopeless, shitty, and upset. And powerless. Awareness is important, but without avenues for positive actions or something to make people feel hopeful or at least not powerless, is it actually beneficial? 

I dunno. These are just my $0.02. I haven’t thought deeply about it, nor do I know the results (e.g., what the responses have been), what are the long-term effects (e.g., does it actually increase awareness in the long-term? increase the number of people seeking help? or decrease stigma?), but I know that I’d be very negatively affected by it. 

I don’t know, maybe this is super unrelated, but it is like seeing some representation of the number of people who have died as a result of civil wars or genocide or violence against women or something. Those instances always make me feel so powerless and so, so shitty that I end up feeling *extremely* triggered (ED-wise). Mostly because, in my experience, such events/representations are not accompanied by realistic and meaningful ways to fight against the shittiness. I dunno. This is pretty random. I haven’t thought much about it. I’m interested to see what psychhealth thinks. I’m not really aware of how these events are organized/run/what resources are offered, so maybe I am really wrong/misunderstanding things. 

Okay, another good point. I don’t know what sorts of avenues you’d want there to be offered at the display but as I mentioned previously in this slew of posts, there are representatives from other local mental health organizations (AFSP, NAMI, and Wounded Warriors) that have resources for you to pursue, support groups, etc., and we offered a TON of educational material about mental illness, sexual assault, substance abuse, etc. And, of course, the option to sign up with any of those orgs including Active Minds to join the cause. What else would you want to see at an event like this?

I don’t have any info on the effectiveness display other than this, which I found on Active Minds, Inc.’s web page:

"Since the inaugural display in 2008 on the National Mall in Washington, DC, Send Silence Packing has traveled to more than 70 cities in states across the country. Program evaluation data reveals that individuals leave the display wanting to learn more about mental health. 91 percent of survey respondents rate the display as powerful or very powerful and 83 percent report that it is educational. Our evaluations also show that the majority of visitors tell three or more people about Send Silence Packing and many reach out to a friend in need or seek help for themselves as a result of seeing the program."

The powerful stat doesn’t mean much, obviously, but the others?

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Anonymous said:
God you're such a fucking cunt. The backpack event is extremely powerful and if its "triggering" for you, you need to get over yourself.  

kyssandrith:

psychhealth:

kyssandrith:

psychhealth:

kyssandrith:

insanitywithapencil:

Way to ignore constructive criticism anon. If the backpack event is as powerful as you claim it to be it doesn’t need -you- hurling anonymous hate at it’s criticizers. If that’s how you’re going to act you have no right to defend it’s message because, also, news flash, what you are doing is effectively bullying and you know whats tied to most school suicides right?

Gees. Sorry you had that anon hate Kyssa. ;[

It’s okay- what you said is pretty much how I feel about it. As I’ve said before, to me, anon hate is pretty much this:

image

I know very well that my criticisms are legitimate. I also know that they’re criticisms that could, should, and are lobbed at a lot of advocacy groups. I mean, how many PSAs have I seen that triggered me on some level? Quite a few. And one of the big problems is, their strategy is, explicitly to be unavoidable. Because they want people who aren’t invested to have to pay attention.

This is a problem the backpack event shares- especially since the mass warning did not go out to students. For a student who could not handle experiencing this kind of event, it would be impossible for them to “opt out.” It makes it very difficult to engage in the self-care that a person who is going through depression or suicidal ideation needs when they aren’t able to draw their boundaries.

And even if the warning did go out, how many of these students would be able to avoid it if they needed to, really? Skipping valuable class time? Tests? Scrambling to get professors to understand that they simply couldn’t go to campus that day? Being forced to explain to a professor why you couldn’t make the quiz that day, and wondering if their response will just be to “suck it up”?

I agree that putting stories to numbers is an extremely powerful tool. When I studied abroad in Germany, we went to a Holocasut museum. The first floor discussed a lot of history, and the basement had pictures, names, and stories.

I cried.

It was meaningful. It was powerful. It was an experience that will stick with me to the day I die. But it was constructed in a way that gave me a choice. I had the choice to look down there and go “no, I can’t handle this.” Which, as a person who has, indeed, struggled with depression and suicidal ideation (just to not worry anybody, I haven’t experienced the latter in years <3), was essential for my ability to engage in the proper self-care that helps me manage my illness.

I do not appreciate that the posts I’ve seen by psychhealth respond with the tone “I’m sorry if you were triggered, but I hope this was overall positive.” I do not feel that you really understand how dangerous this sort of thing could be for someone going through severe depression or suicidal ideation, because the event was explicitly constructed in a way that made self-care very difficult or impossible. And with that word choice, “I’m sorry if you” rather than “I’m sorry I,” it’s clear to me that you believe that any harm caused by this event is justifiable based on the results you’ve seen from people who, ostensibly, have never had to face that darkness in their lives.

…That’s… a problem.

First, to the anon, please reconsider how you talk to people who disagree with you. It’s very hypocritical for you to support Send Silence Packing and then attack someone like that.

I feel like you’re breaking down my language and basing my character off it, which sucks because if we had this discussion in person you wouldn’t have such a negative view of me. :( I’m seriously very sorry I’m coming off as insensitive, it’s just the way I type.

If you hadn’t seen this reply of mine yet, I’ll paste it here:

kyssandrith:

Oh hey, it’s the first anon hate I’ve ever gotten.

ANON HATE BINGO TIME.

1) Gendered slur.

2) “just get over yourself”

3) Pretty much laughing at my past mental health history and reducing my actual, real triggers at this sort of thing to dismissive quotation marks.

This is exactly why I have a problem with these kinds of displays. In an effort to shock people into caring about the problem, the actual needs of the people it’s purporting to help are being trampled over.

I’m being told here that because the event is extremely evocative, I need to tuck my mental health history away and simply grit my teeth and bear the fact that were I still who I was in college, and if I had to navigate this display on the way to class, I would have had a full-on breakdown that might have taken me weeks to recover from.

psychhealth I’m still mulling over my response to your reply, but my feelings here are a hint to what I’m thinking about.

I figured that you should see some of the things that were said here.

"All I can really think to say in response is that the majority of people involved in planning and carrying out the event have a mental illness, so it’s not as though we’re blindly advocating for a cause that hasn’t personally affected us. A few of them are suicide survivors. A few of them know someone who has died by suicide. Many people who came up to the display to thank us for having it up fell into those categories.

So the positive responses we’ve received from people who fit in those categories have far out outweighed the negative. Not that the negative responses aren’t extremely important to consider, but you’re not speaking for all mentally ill people when you say Send Silence Packing came at an emotional cost for them.”

I’ve also struggled with suicidal thoughts and self harm over the years and know many people close to me who have as well so I’m not just advocating for something I’ve never experienced, and I have people who were triggered but still overall glad we did it. So I don’t know.

I’ve been talking this over with my mom and she agrees with you that one thing that should have been done differently is making it a choice whether or not you encountered the display. If they were to do it again that’d be a good thing to change.

I would actually be very supportive of the display if people were able to opt-out. It’s the fact that it was expressly impossible to avoid that I strongly dislike. I think, if it were done again, this is a necessary thing to change. 

I understand that there are people who were triggered but glad it was done- and that’s totally fine. Everyone experiences things differently. What I want to impress on you, though, is that I’m sure there’s a lot more people who are triggered and weren’t glad who you probably aren’t hearing from. How likely are those people to speak up about it when their very illness (and the stigmas associated) work to silence their voices?

I’ve been monitoring the 16,000+ notes of all posts surrounding the display—it’s how I found your criticisms—and even those in the world of anonymity have been largely positive. But you’re right, and I’ll say it again, that I’m sorry.

It’s all right. I appreciate your forthrightness and your willingness to self-examine and listen to the criticisms. For what it’s worth, I am glad that there is a group of people there working so diligently to increase awareness of these issues. I think that this wouldn’t be a bad thing at all to have other chapters do across the country- as long as it is reconstructed in a different way. :) Thank you for listening. 

My pleasure!

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