Active Minds tries to bring suicide awareness to Revere


Szilvia Wiksell

Backpacks lined up in a circle around the Kent State gym.

Chloe Grimm, Editor in Chief

Revere senior and co-president of Active Minds Szilvia Wiksell walked through double doors into the Ohio State Mansfield gymnasium where she experienced something unexpected in a college gym. Before she walked through the doors, she read a sign that said, “Warning: this may be sensory to some people, this is going to be talking about people that have passed because of suicide.” Wiksell explained what she saw after she crossed through into the gym. 

“On [my] right there was a big booth and there [were] Active Minds members there, [including] the head of the Send Silence Packing, and they [gave me] information about the displays [and] how they set it up,” Wiksell said. 

The displays Wiksell mentioned are the main event of Send Silence Packing, the experience Wiksell attended at the Ohio State Mansfield campus. The main display focused on backpacks that each represented someone that lost a life due to suicide. Wiksell explained what she saw at this part of the gymnasium. 

“[I went] through each and every crevice where the backpacks were lined up because they’re all laying flat on the floor; [I could] see every single person’s stories, and each story that are on these backpacks [has] a letter written by a loved one or a friend that recognizes that either their friend, husband, daughter, sister was struggling,” Wiksell said. 

The immense amount of backpacks kept Wiksell busy, reading about each person’s story. 

“Each backpack, there were like 1000 to 2000, were set up in a big circle that came together and almost every single backpack had a letter, either it was like a paragraph, or it was like four pages long from the actual family,” Wiksell said. 

Every backpack at the event belonged to a person who passed. Wiksell explained how Active Minds, the club that created Send Silence Packing, retrieved the backpacks. 

“[Active Minds] has always gotten people to reach out or people to send them information or pictures, people give it to them, they have never had to ask, because. . . the families that have experienced this tragedy, they wanted to give it to Active Minds to display [to] hopefully help save a life,” Wiksell said. 

Along with Wiksell, Revere High School principal Dr. Andy Peltz and Vice President of Active Minds Luke Juengel went to the Ohio State Mansfield campus and saw Send Silence Packing. Peltz explained the impact the book bags added to the display. 

“When you’re in that space it’s quiet, and you realize you’ve walked through a graveyard. . .that grave represents a person, but the book bag, that was someone’s personal item; that was really strong,” Peltz said. 

To deepen the experience of each book bag, there were audio recordings to the side of every backpack and other hands-on experiences. Juengel explained these extra details. 

“There was an interactive section where they had iPads set up where you could listen to people’s stories and learn more about how parts of them were affected. They also had a section of bags that had more than just the kid or person’s backpack, it had some of their favorite items in it, so you could get more of a hands-on type of experience as well,” Juengel said. 

Lastly, Active Minds offered a psychology booth to have professionals at the event in case anyone was triggered by the scene. Wiksell explained why this station is important. 

“Personally walking through it, reading the different stories, I think I tensed up a little bit. It’s a very sentimental thing and everyone is going to take it differently, everyone is going to have some sort of connection with the display, whether positive or negative, because it’s a very powerful thing,” Wiksell said. 

To ensure that Send Silence Packing does not make anyone want to harm themselves, they check over every letter associated with a backpack.

“[Active Minds members] read it through and they personally ensure that there is nothing negative, and there’s no mentioning of how they killed themselves, if the family does send that to them then they send it back and they [ask them] to rewrite [it],” Wiksell said. 

Peltz further explained the thought Active Minds puts behind Send Silence Packing to certify everyone’s safety. 

“Active Minds always [does] everything top notch. They have professionals on site to sit there and if you had a very strong reaction there was a professional there to help you right away. There were a lot of ways if you wanted to discuss it more privately,” Peltz said. 

The experience from Send Silence Packing is different than anything the three had ever seen, and after seeing the display, Revere Active Minds hopes to bring it to Revere. 

Revere Active Minds tries to bring Send Silence Packing to Revere as the first high school to experience the event but receives backlash from administration along with other challenges. 

Send Silence Packing is a mental health event Active Minds created to bring awareness to suicide and its effects. Send Silence Packing is a more drastic approach to suicide awareness because students can really see the impact versus only dancing around the word suicide. Guidance counselor and adviser of Active Minds Emily Rion explained why she believes Send Silence Packing is important for Revere High School. 

“I think that bringing this here shows that our community supports mental health and well being. It shows that you’re acknowledging that it’s ok to talk about this,” Rion said. 

 Rion, as a guidance counselor, believes that mental health is extremely important to recognize and treat. She explained the difference between her old school versus Revere regarding mental health. 

“I came from a district where social, mental and emotional health was at the forefront, and we had different counseling services, and I was in the classrooms doing different activities with students regarding talking about feelings and coping and resiliency, and then I got here and they really didn’t do that. That’s not ok, that is what makes us human, so how do we expect our students to learn from us if they don’t know how to cope when they’re struggling,” Rion said. 

Juengel agreed with Rion on how important mental health really is. 

“Just understand that it’s ok to talk about it. It doesn’t just happen to some people, and you can’t expect, it happens to people you wouldn’t expect that put on a face and they seem happy, and they don’t know that you just have to teach kids to look out for the signs of it and a check in on each other and make sure their friends are ok,” Juengel said. 

One thing that Send Silence Packing does is show the diversity of people that pass from suicide. Juengel went into detail on this as a reason to support Send Silence Packing. 

“I think it helped broaden the idea of who all is affected by it; I think they did a nice job of including not only people our age but adults and I think there was a couple people in their fifties and sixties who were on the list, so I think they did a good job of giving a variety of people,” Juengel said. 

Juengel said why he believes Send Silence Packing is important to implement at Revere. 

“It is important that students understand how it [suicide] happens, what can cause it, that some people don’t know what causes it and to be able to understand that. Don’t ignore your feelings and that there’s hope for you,” Juengel said. 

Revere junior and co-president of Active Minds Lily Hoza supports Send Silence Packing just like Wiksell and Juengel. Hoza spoke on why she believes Send Silence Packing should be brought to Revere. 

“Not a lot of high schoolers get information about this topic and many other topics from reliable sources, it’s always TV shows, what we hear on the news, it’s not really coming from someone who’s trying to talk about it like the people from Active Minds are,” Hoza said. 

Hoza also believes that Active Minds should get this information out to the high school students now instead of after graduation. 

“I think the sooner we get information about topics that aren’t really talked about, the better,” Hoza said. 

If Active Minds brings Send Silence Packing to Revere High School, Revere would be the first high school to ever experience it. Send Silence Packing has only been introduced to Institutes of Higher Education (IHEs), which includes universities and different types of colleges. Everyone exposed to the event is at least in college, and most likely an adult (eighteen or above). Peltz, as principal, detailed his concerns after seeing Send Silence Packing affected him as a grown adult versus a fourteen year old freshman. 

“When I think of Send Silence Packing, I will think of Mansfield Campus and I will always think of that gym and everything else around it. For me, I don’t have to walk past that gymnasium everyday, but if I knew every single time I pulled into a parking spot and I immediately saw that gym I’d immediately start associating Send Silence Packing or those backpacks with it. I would be careful [associating that] on our campus,” Peltz said. 

One of Peltz’s concerns is students associating Revere’s campus with something so powerful. The setting of Send Silence Packing is outside where anyone can see it (the Ohio State visit made by Revere staff and students was inside due to rain, but this is unusual). This brings up another concern that Revere Superintendent Dr. Michael Tefs mentioned. 

“If there [are] backpacks and let’s say they are out there [on our campus], it’s no longer a high school event. It’s a community event; Richfield Elementary sees that, the middle school sees that; we have to be able to have the conversation about Send Silence Packing with two other buildings,” Tefs said. 

Peltz furthered with this concern, where even if younger students did not go to the event, they could still see it. 

“The driving by and you’ll have the Richfield kids asking, ‘What are those bookbags over there?’” Peltz said. 

Rion explained a different approach for the event to eliminate worries about younger students seeing Send Silence Packing. 

“We might combine efforts with another high school and take it off site because it’s too much to have it here,” Rion said. 

Although this new idea solves the problem of middle school and elementary school students seeing the event, Peltz still raised concerns about younger high school students.

“I think that would be tough for some younger aged people to go through, again not saying the message isn’t important because it impacts a lot of people, but I think managing emotions is something to be aware of,” Peltz said.

Hoza explained that Send Silence Packing would also not be a mandatory event like an assembly at the high school; this adds to less concern for younger students or students that do not want to participate. 

“It’s not going to be a mandatory thing, it’s by choice if you want to because it’s so heavy. I want people to know that it’s ok to feel like you don’t want to go there or you don’t want to do it because it’s a lot to take in, but I think it’s important to be there. I think sometimes we need something big and moving and heavy to help with a big problem like that,” Hoza said. 

Even with some high schoolers not attending the event, any student that goes to Send Silence Packing may be impacted emotionally by what they see. This raises concerns about the number of counselors available for the event. Greenleaf is a depression and suicide awareness program that Revere utilizes every year. Hoza explained the amount of counselors needed for Greenleaf to come and briefly talk about depression, versus how many counselors would be needed for Send Silence Packing. 

“When Greenleaf is talking about suicide prevention it can be triggering for some people, so even those days the counseling office is packed. So if we did this on a much bigger scale, it’s way more moving than anything that Greenleaf is going to be talking about, and so we just don’t have the facilities right now to do it,” Hoza said. 

Hoza explained that Revere would need all the counselors from the district to come to the event, and for this to happen, Send Silence Packing would most likely be held on the weekend. 

Another difficult aspect of bringing Send Silence Packing to Revere is the financial aspect of the event. Active Minds needs $6,000 to bring the program to Revere, and although they will not earn any money from the district, Juengel wrote a grant to get the money. 

“I wrote a grant [to] a local foundation that’s at the University of Akron asking for the funds for the event, the only thing holding it back from being approved [is] admin’s approval that we could actually do the event,” Juengel said. 

Active Minds can raise the money themselves and host the event in a place detached from Revere that’s not mandatory for all students, the different concerns raised by administrators were answered. Tefs is still concerned and hopes to gain more knowledge about Send Silence Packing before being the first high school to bring the event to younger students. 

“I don’t know if I want to be the first school district in Ohio to do this, can someone else, can we go on more field trips, can we get a couple more people to go and really think through the scale of not only Revere High School, but the impact it could have across the district and across the community?” Peltz said. 

Active Minds continues to learn more about the event to bring awareness to suicide. The club plans to take the idea to the board for further consideration.