Texas Christian University is a lot of things. This year, we are anything but silent.
On Monday, September 29, the campus commons was filled with over 1000 backpacks, snagging attention to the normally pristine lawn.
This was an exhibit to “Send Silence Packing”–there was one book bag for each of the 1,100 college students who dies in an average year from suicide. Interspersed with the packs were signs reading facts and messages of hope, most importantly that every person is loved and no ones is alone. Students had the opportunity to engage with this exhibit all day, as many stopped in memory and reflection, took pictures, and made time to walk around the commons to read the signs.
This was a moment when the campus community demonstrated its commitment to be advocates for mental health and to share hope with those suffering and struggling. This was an effort to stamp out any stigma that may keep someone from seeking help for himself or a friend. This was another means of making campus resources for mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness known and accessible to all Horned Frogs.
Sending Silence Packing was not the first campus event this year aimed at this goal of addressing self harm and demonstrating the worth of each individual in the community.
On the evening of Wednesday, September 10th, in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day, the TCU Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and TCU Health and Wellness hosted a candlelight vigil at Frog Fountain entitled, “A Light in the Darkness.” Several speakers shared stories of struggle transformed into hope, into light. Senior Emily Ishe addressed the attendants, “No matter what we do, no matter how we feel, we are loved. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded.”
Rev. Allison Lanza, one of the coordinators of this event, shared with me later her delight that students lingered after the speakers had finished.
They decorated a banner depicting light with words that would shine light into dark places of internal suffering. They stayed to meet students outside their normal circles of friends. Led by members of the student organization To Write Love on Her Arms, who advocate against self harm and for reaching out to those who are struggling, many did just that–wrote love and messages of encouragement on each others’ arms. Connections formed and community strengthened.
Emily had also encouraged those present, “Your story will have its dark spots. But it will also be full of light. What’s important is that it continues.”
So also will the story of a campus community focused on light, hope, love, and the affirmed and reaffirmed worth of every person. We will be anything but silent.