Send Silence Packing

Send Silence Packing

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Active Minds seeks to hold public displays of its innovative Send Silence Packing program: 1,100 backpacks representing the 1,100 college students who die by suicide each year. Through these displays, we intend to demonstrate the incidence and impact of college student suicide, and impress upon everyone his/her role in prevention.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Each year, more than 1,100 college students take their own lives; and more than 10% of all students have seriously contemplated suicide. Nearly half of all students report having felt so depressed in the past year that it was difficult to function. Suicide and the depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues that often lead to suicide are real problems affecting too many young adults. Nearly 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable form of a mental health disorder at the time they die. Diagnosable, but not necessarily diagnosed. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for college students, and each year it's killing 1,100 students too many. We are facing an epidemic, and yet we are doing nothing about it. In order to successfully bring suicide out of the closet, we need to think big. We need to think like the other causes who have made a splash. We also need to show people that suicide is preventable, is tied to mental health, and mental health is everyone's concern.
About You
Active Minds
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name


Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Active Minds

Organization Phone


Organization Address

2647 Connecticut Ave, NW #200; Washington, DC 20008

Organization Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on
What makes your idea unique?

AIDS has a quilt, Drunk Driving has keys - suicide, and suicide prevention, are still in the closet. Our idea, the Send Silence Packing program, is the only creative, large-scale display of the impact of suicide especially on young adults. We use backpacks to represent the 1,100 college students who die by suicide each year, and the backpacks have stories and pictures to represent particular individuals. The display of 1,100 backpacks is huge in order to be in people's faces; we cannot be ignoring the issue anymore. We seek to truly make a statement that suicide is real, preventable, and everyone has a role in ensuring it doesn't affect any more young adults or their families.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had?

Send Silence Packing has so far been displayed twice on a national scale, and has touched more than 10,000 people in doing so. The first display was on the National Mall in Washington, DC in April 2008. The program was displayed directly in front of the public transportation stop, the Metro, so that everyone going on or getting off the Metro saw it. Thousands of people stopped by, walked through the bags, asked questions, and picked up materials. Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) was gracious enough to serve as our guest speaker at the event - and before he left, he stated that he wanted Send Silence Packing the Rhode Island State House lawn.
The second display of Send Silence Packing was at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. A band played music alongside the display, to truly send silence packing. More than 1500 people came by and saw the display, took materials, and many signed a guest book. We have heard from multiple people that Send Silence Packing is one of the most powerful programs that individuals have been a part of.


Active Minds has worked diligently over the past two years to collect backpacks and accompanying stories for the Send Silence Packing display. Now with the bags, we have successfully completed two public displays and have worked hard to secure the funding for more displays, including forging partnerships with other campus-based groups and soliciting support from related shipping companies. We are working with Road Trip Nation to host another display at Virginia Tech University on Tuesday, October 13. We are, in essence, being as creative as possible to get the display in front of as many people as possible.

But Send Silence Packing, and Active Minds, is not just about bags. We work hard to ensure at every display that it is in the most public place possible, plenty of relevant materials and resources are made available to everyone who stops by (including information about the program, Active Minds, college students, mental health, and suicide, and about where one can seek help). The program also includes press releases to local media and correspondence with people who have donated backpacks to let them know where the program will be traveling, as well as a speaker or band.


Active Minds works everyday to change the conversation about mental health by increasing a dialogue, using supportive and appropriate language, and creating an environment on campuses where students feel comfortable seeking help and know where help is available.

Send Silence Packing is our most public, national program to bring that message to the general public. It is our goal that, by holding public displays of Send Silence Packing on college campuses, state house lawns, and other public spaces, thousands of people will learn about the tragedy that takes too many people's lives, and how they can become involved in the dialogue to Send Silence Packing and stop student suicide. Ultimately, we hope to travel the Send Silence Packing display around the country until there isn't a single backpack that we need to display.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

In the next year, we are hoping to be able to finish collecting bags (about 100 are still needed) and stories (as many as we can get!) for the display. In addition, we are hoping to host at least 5 public displays of the event, which will require funding for two people to go on a month long 'road trip' in a rented 12' truck. In this first year, we intend to test and implement evaluation tools.
In the second year, Send Silence Packing would be successful if we are able to host at least 10 displays, also requiring a rented truck, paid staff to 'road trip', and relevant marketing materials.
In year 3, success will be having 20 public displays all around the country, averaging about 2/week for 10 weeks, evaluating each display both qualitatively and quantitatively, and traveling with a particularly well-known speaker or band; having a true impact. In those three years, with 35 displays of Send Silence Packing, we have the potential to truly impact more than 300,000 people around the country.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

The Send Silence Packing program is currently sitting in a storage area in our office. Our biggest barrier to success at this point is the funding to travel the large display, including paying someone a small stipend to drive the bags around in a rented truck for the duration of the tour. Otherwise, we have seen the impact of the display on thousands of people already and know that simply getting it out there is making an enormous difference in many people's lives.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?

What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Active Minds, Inc.

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Active Minds exists as the student voice in college mental health. As a result, most of the work we do is in partnership with colleges, universities, and other mental health groups that don't have a student focus. We seek to bring the mental health issues and voices of students to the forefront of the groups with whom we work.

Because of this, what we do could not exist without our partners. Already, other mental health groups have requested the Send Silence Packing display at their suicide-prevention events, but we simply cannot bring it to them because we don't have the funding to do so. With such partnerships that will allow us to reach even more people than we could on our own, Send Silence Packing would make the impact that its intended to make.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

The three most important actions needed to grow Send Silence Packing are:
1) Collecting as many stories and photos as possible to put on the 1,100 backpacks of Send Silence Packing
2) Securing the funding to take Send Silence Packing 'on the road'
3) Partnering with a variety of groups and government agencies to create the best outreach plan, or road map, to ensure that the display reaches as many people of various backgrounds as possible

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

We were sitting in the Active Minds office, brainstorming about why mental health and suicide are still such silent issues, and what we could do about it in addition to creating campus chapters. One of our staff said "backpacks" and immediately, the idea of Send Silence Packing was born.

At Active Minds, we are doing everything we possibly can to let people know about the mental health issues that young adults often face, and what they - both young adults and others - can do about it. We also know that mental health and suicide are inextricably linked, and we cannot talk about one without talking about the other. By promoting an enlightened, supportive dialogue, we are creating environments that encourage early help seeking, and preventing tragedies. It is known that the earlier that help is sought for a mental health issue, the more likely recovery is possible. It is also known that more than 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental health disorder, and that every 18 minutes someone in this country dies by suicide and leaves a large group of family and friends who will never, ever be the same.

Send Silence Packing is Active Minds' jarring way to make the world understand the epidemic we are facing, and stand up and do something about it.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

As the founder and Executive Director of Active Minds, I am technically the social innovator behind this idea - but it is because of the incredible dedication, creativity, and ingenuity of my staff and our student volunteers that Active Minds has been successful and that Send Silence Packing even exists. I majored in psychology and sociology in college, struggling to figure out what I could do with my degrees other than continue to graduate school. It wasn't until I graduated Phi Beta Kappa, just three years after my college-aged brother took his own life, that I realized that I could make my life experiences and passion my work. Upon graduating I spent a few months weighing the options for the small student group I had started on my campus, and decided to grow it as an independent nonprofit organization so that the student voice in mental health truly was never lost. I have dedicated all of my time since graduation to Active Minds, and it has been my full time job since. Though it started in my bedroom in my shared apartment, and I had no salary for the organization's first year, I knew it would be a success. Just six years later, I am so proud of the work Active Minds has achieved, so thankful of the support we continue to garner, and so inspired by the dedication and intelligence of my staff and our volunteers. Though I wish every day that my brother Brian was still with me, I know that through programs like Send Silence Packing and the other projects that Active Minds hosts, we are preventing other than young adults from feeling the loneliness and hopelessness that Brian felt.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

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