Duquesne hosts suicide awareness event

Peter Boettger | Staff Photographer | A sign of encouragement reads "Keep going. The world needs you HERE." at Thursday's event.

Brentaro Yamane | Layout/Multimedia Editor

Nov. 10, 2022

Dozens of backpacks sat perfectly spaced across the lawn in front of Brottier Hall and Gumberg Library.

Each bag represented a person. Some of the people were lost to suicide. Sometimes the people survived and still had bags representing them.

Active Minds is the nation’s premier nonprofit organization which supports mental health awareness and education for young adults.

Last Thursday, Active Minds teamed up with Duquesne to host an event called “Silence Packing,” It is one of many programs from Active Minds to help people around the country. Thursday’s stop at Duquesne was the 21st college the program visited during this year’s tour.

Kelsey Pacetti, the Send Silence Display Coordinator for Active Minds, has noticed how the event has helped students talk about their problems, which is comforting for her. She knows that those who need help are going to the right resources to get the help they need.

“The main reaction from students is gratitude, and a lot of people will open up and share their story with us,” Pacetti said. “And sometimes that means connecting the person to counseling, and hoping that it will have a ripple effect across these college campuses. So, just being there to support them, but a lot of people end up being super open and a lot of people, you’d be surprised, are impacted by suicide in some way. Whether they’ve had thoughts of suicide, if they’ve attempted or they know someone that is lost to suicide. it has impacted them. There’s a huge ripple effect in how suicide impacts all of us.”

In the past, Pacetti has struggled with mental health, and she was able to use Active Minds to get through the tough times.

“I struggled a lot with my own mental health, and I found a lot of hope and resources through Active Minds,” Pacetti said. “I found that sharing my story and being vulnerable was really healing not only for me, but for other people. And to be able to go out on the road and hear people’s stories and just get to know them and realize that none of us are truly alone is just really inspiring. It’s a great opportunity for me professionally, and just for my own mental health.”

Brandon Graham is the Assistant Director and Groups Coordinator for the Counseling Services on campus. Throughout his time in, he has noticed an increase in people who are willing to speak up, which has also lead to a decrease in suicides.

“I would say definitely the stigma appears to be going down,” Graham said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but there appears to be a trend through technology and social media, through the younger generation, through organizations like these ones, putting on events like this to allow people to speak about their experiences, mental health, sometimes just things that maybe people didn’t talk about over time,” Graham said. “So, I would say a stigma reduction, openness to having tough conversations and people doing the work to normalize suffering and hard times and how people respond to that in a variety of ways,”

“There’s not just one way of coping with these symptoms.”

The friends, family and loved ones of those who have died can struggle to cope with the loss in their lives as well. That’s why it’s also important for them to have resources as well.

Ethan Horn, a senior at Duquesne majoring in psychology and minoring in human services, also helped at the event. Since graduating from high school, Horn has lost people to suicide as well, and, he has been able to better cope with the losses he has had.

“I had to realize that, yes, these people might be gone. But the memories of them are not,” Horn said. “Something in philosophy says that people can die two deaths. They can die a physical death. And they can die a psychological death, which relates to our memories. So really, these people aren’t totally gone, as long as you remember them. As long as we keep them in memory and intend to make a better future. I think it’s important to connect back with family and friends to really kind of reign in that support as well as to maybe take a moment for ourselves. I think that’s been one of the biggest lessons here. Take time for yourself. Take time to check in with people and know that you’re not alone.”

Graham is just one of the people who have the everyday goal and desire of trying to help people get through tough times.  “It’s one of the most meaningful things in my life, to be able to help navigate us to a good session, to see the change in someone that has a little bit more hope, a little more joy in their life or even just feel supported,” he said. ” I would say that’s what got me into this work. And it’s extremely meaningful.”