A KU organization is working to raise awareness about mental health through an interactive exhibit next week.
Hawks Mind, a program of KU’s Center for Community Outreach, has partnered with Active Minds, a mental health advocacy organization, and together they are hosting the Send Silence Packing event at the university.
This exhibit will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29 and will be located on the lawn of the Watson Library.
Active Minds’ Send Silence Packing exhibit travels across the country. It consists of many backpacks, each with a personal story of someone who has been affected by suicide. This display is used to end the social stigma against talking about mental health issues and suicide.
Tabitha Foster, program coordinator for Hawks Mind, heard about this display while researching for Into the Streets Week (ITSW) in 2021.
ITSW is “KU’s biggest advocacy-based event of the year,” according to the Center’s website.
“Our main event last year was supposed to be Send Silence Packing, but because of COVID it didn’t quite work out,” said Radhia Abdirahman, executive director of the Center for Community Outreach. “So we decided to have it as one of our exhibits for this year, and try to have it as part of Hawks Mind’s inaugural year as it’s our new program.”
As this is a heavy topic, Hawks Mind worked with local mental health professionals to attend the event and find resources to distribute to attendees on March 29.
“Our main concern over the past few weeks has been to secure these mental health professionals and to make sure that we have resources at hand and information to give to students, so that when they leave this exposure, they don’t feel hopeless, but more optimistic about the kinds of change they can make in mental illness and suicide prevention, on and off campus,” Abdirahman said.
Abdirahman and Foster are excited about this event, as this is Send Silence Packing’s first time in Kansas.
“I’m personally excited,” Foster said. “That obviously also comes with the stress, you know, one of our goals is to make sure it’s going well, and it’s going well.”
The spirit of the falcons
Hawks Mind is the Center for Community Outreach’s newest program. The Center is a service-based organization that consists of 13 different programs, and all of the programs are in response to student efforts, according to Abdirahman.
Foster didn’t know much about mental health until she started doing research for ITSW in the fall of 2020. After learning more, she saw there was a need for a service like Hawks Mind. on the campus.
“You know, [college is] an entirely different experience,” Foster said. “You’re away from home, so a lot of those pressures can take a toll on your mental well-being. It sparked my passion for mental health and after Into the Streets week I just saw a need within the CCO and wanted to continue growing there.
The Hawks Mind program officially began in June 2021, but did not begin participating in service opportunities until around September. From September to December, Hawks Mind completed approximately 150 hours of service with many volunteers. Foster said the group was proud of the effort.
Additionally, Abdirahman mentioned that all program coordinators through CCO are unpaid.
“Our program coordinators are not paid. They are also volunteers, which just shows the dedication and passion they have to work with mental health advocacy and that sort of thing,” Abdirahman said. “I’m just proud of them.”
To participate in volunteer opportunities with Hawks Mind, go to https://volunteer.ku.edu/ or email the group at email@example.com.