High schools hold display for mental health awareness

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More than 1000 backpacks donated from families were spread across the King Phillips High School Track and Field to represent students who died from suicide as part of the Send Silence Packing demonstration to raise awareness about mental health in children. Staff Photo/Adam Bass

By Adam Bass-abass@northstarreporter.com

The track and field of King’s Philip Regional High School are usually filled with athletes and trainers every day.

On the morning of Sept. 19, however, backpacks and pictures were spread across the area, with stories attached to them about students who suffered from depression and trauma.

These backpacks were a part of a display by King Phillip and North Attleborough High Schools and the Active Minds nonprofit to raise awareness among students who suffer from depression and who have died of suicide.

The display, titled Send Silence Packing, featured 1,000 images of students whose backpacks were donated by families to honor and remember their children. The event was funded by the KyleCares Foundation, King Phillips and North Attleboro Active Minds chapters, the Justine Metz Charitable Trust, and community donations.

Dot Pearl, Director of Wellness at Active Minds said this was one of four displays to be hosted in Massachusetts throughout Autumn. She said the organization’s goal is to help raise mental health awareness across schools in the United States.

“We are extremely grateful to be able to host this display at our high school as we must raise awareness about mental health and reduce the stigma that surrounds the topic,” said Pearl. “The students were responsible for helping put this together and collaborating with North Attleborough High School.”

Matt Kelley, a senior at King Phillip, took charge of setting up the display. Kelley, who is also the school’s Active Minds chapter mind president, said he thought the display would create a connection between students and teachers.

“I am so happy we can have this display at KP and am grateful for the generous donations and support we received,” said Kelley. “I hope this event will raise awareness and get people talking about the important issue of mental health.”

The mood at the event was somber, as students, staff, and teachers walked slowly across the field, quietly reading the stories of the students represented by their backpacks.

North Attleborough Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Antonucci was present at the event and spent most of his time listening to students who had organized the display.

North Attleborough Principal Peter Haviland praised the students from both schools who took time out of their schedule to raise awareness for mental health among teenagers.

“The students worked hard to organize this event,” he said. “We hope the North Attleborough and King Philip communities will use this opportunity to learn more about the mental health resources that exist.”