THE BACKPACKS STREWN around the front square of Trinity College Dublin yesterday were not left there by students hurrying to class or standing nearby with friends.
The empty bags instead represent the average number of college students who die by suicide in Ireland each year: 131.
The display is part of a new campaign, Send Silence Packing, designed to raise awareness of the impact of suicide and connect students to mental health supports.
The initiative – a collaboration between the Union of Students in Ireland and mental health groups 3TS and pleasetalk.org – is the first of its kind in Ireland.
Similar campaigns have been rolled out in a number of US universities over the past year.
The bags will be moved to colleges across the country over the coming weeks, stopping off next at Athlone IT on Thursday and NUI Galway on 14 March.
Passers-by are invited to write messages on tags and tie them to the bags as a sign of their commitment to breaking the silence around mental health.
Treasa Hanniffy of pleasetalk.org said: “Talking to someone we trust is often the hardest step to take but the most crucial step.
“This initiative highlights the need for us to tackle the stigma attached to mental health and suicide which prevents young people from reaching out and seeking help.”
Scott Ahern of 3Ts said the campaign presents an "opportunity to start a conversation about suicide prevention".
Our messages are simple: be there for someone by simply listening, reach out when times are tough, and find your on-campus and off-campus support services at pleasetalk.org.
- Samaritans - 116 123
- Console - 1800 247 247
- Aware - 1890 303 302
- Pieta House - 01 601 0000
- Teen-Line Ireland - 1800 833 634
- Childline - 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)
- turn2me.org - online counselling