A traveling exhibit to support students struggling with mental health is making its way through Oklahoma.
As students at TCC’s Southeast Campus made their way out onto the lawn Tuesday, they were met with a powerful sight: 1,000 backpacks placed on the grass, each one representing someone who lost their lives to suicide.
"It's a very moving exhibit, and being here really helps you feel how many people it does affect," said Andrea Gipson-Sparks.
She is the president of TCC's Active Minds Chapter, a national organization that takes the Send Silence Packing exhibit from school to school. Andrea says she's struggled with mental health herself and wanted to help others.
"Mental health issues can affect anyone. It can be minor; it can be major and we just really want to bring awareness to that and we want to provide people with resources to help them," said Gipson-Sparks.
As students walk through the backpacks and read the stories, they're met with encouraging messages. The counseling staff at TCC hopes that these backpacks remind students that seeking help for mental health is important. Chad Mikell is a counselor at TCC and says a growing number of students are reaching out for help this year.
"We're seeing a little bit of pent-up demand, and so we've had a big increase of students reaching out in the Fall of 2021 relative to the fall of 2020," Mikell said.
He says about 62% of the TCC students reporting suicidal thoughts over the past year saw a reduction in those symptoms after counseling.
"Unfortunately suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but we also have to be mindful that to that individual, it is a very serious problem," he said.
Mikell hopes that this exhibit will foster a community of awareness for mental health throughout campus. If you or someone you know needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255, COPES at 918-744-4800, or text “RELIEF” to 741-741.
It is our policy to provide resources for anybody considering self-harm when reporting about a situation involving suicide or a suicide attempt.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, call 1-800-273-8255.
The Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1) connect veterans and service members in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text.
Crisis Text Line is a texting service for emotional crisis support. To speak with a trained listener, text HELLO to 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential.