University of Vermont

Former President Daniel Mark Fogel

April 22, 2011

To: The UVM Community
From: Daniel Mark Fogel, President

Re: Send Silence Packing

Each of us—individually and as part of our University community—has been profoundly affected by the loss to suicide of those we know and love. Among college-age students, suicide claims 1100 lives each year and is the third leading cause of death in this group.

We cannot ignore this issue. We cannot afford not to bring it into the open, to discuss it, and to commit ourselves to doing whatever we can to prevent such heart-rending losses. Here is something we all know but rarely acknowledge, even to our closest friends and family members: as human beings, we commonly find ourselves in distress. At times, we may be pushed to places that seem overwhelming. To the extent that we act as though this is not the case, we lose the opportunity to bring a terribly important part of our human experience into a place where we can find relief in the experience and wisdom of our friends and family, and in the expertise of trained professionals.

In the spirit of shedding light on the issue of mental health and the tragedy of suicide among college students, Active Minds, a student group at the University of Vermont, will be bringing Send Silence Packing to our campus. Send Silence Packing is an exhibit of 1,100 backpacks representing the college students lost to suicide each year. Many of these backpacks include a brief profile of a college student who was a victim of suicide. Active Minds at UVM was chosen to host this powerful exhibit, which will be at UVM for just one day, Tuesday, April 19th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Davis Center Amphitheater. Active Minds at UVM is one of 318 student-run chapters nationwide organized to promote dialogue on mental health and to take action to reduce stigma and increase awareness by promoting best practices in campus suicide prevention strategies.

As a learning community, we are strongly committed to supporting the mental and physical health of faculty, staff, and students, and to creating a campus culture that is open, just, and healthy. This commitment is embodied in the work of the President’s Commission on Social Change, which, in close collaboration with many campus partners, has focused on campus-wide initiatives intended to create a community where people “think, care and act” in ways that are aligned with our highest values, standards, and aspirations. At UVM we understand that fulfilling our commitment to creating an even more caring, safe, healthy and just learning community remains our highest priority, and that this challenging endeavor requires all of us as students, faculty and staff actively to engage in what can succeed only as a collective undertaking.

I strongly urge you to take some time on Tuesday, April 19th to walk through the Send Silence Packing exhibit and to reflect on the importance of bringing our conversations about mental health into the light of day.

Last modified April 26 2011 12:53 PM

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