By Alecia Reid | September 9, 2021 at 4:53 pm
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — During this National Suicide Prevention Week, a group working to prevent suicides brought an exhibit to the University of Pennsylvania campus on Thursday.
One backpack after another.
“The first step is to recognize that you are not OK,” Stephanie Calderon with Active Minds said.
Upwards of a thousand stories of hurt and pain laid bare on the University of Pennsylvania campus, bringing awareness to suicide prevention.
“Some families do donate the original backpack from that person, and they’ll put inside their school supplies,” Calderon said.
The organizers of the Active Minds tour say one out of every five students live with mental health conditions nationally, but they don’t reach out for help due to stigma and shame.
“Just like you take care of your physical health, you need to be sustained to mental health and wellness is something a person should be concerned about and take care of,” Ephraim Levin with CogWell, a student group at UPenn, said.
They teamed up with a number of Penn student groups to spread hope and offer help.
“At a really high-performing place like Penn, it’s easy to go about your day and not realize your friends may be struggling,” Penn senior Kelsey Warren said.
Donna Ambrogi knows all too well.
Ambrogi is now donating a backpack in her son Kyle’s honor that will now become part of the national traveling exhibit. The star football player died by suicide in 2005 while he was a senior at Penn.
“Two days before he died, he scored two touchdowns,” Ambrogi said.
Seemingly happy, fun-loving and popular, his mom says anxiety ate away at him.
“Smile on his face, went to class every day, went to football practice, went to dinner. This is not the picture of what normally depression looks like,” Ambrogi said.
“Just two years ago, I wasn’t able to say the word suicide because it was so triggering for me,” Calderon said.
Diagnosed with clinical depression, Calderon is now using her voice to help others.
“I feel so much better now. I reach out for help. I go to a psychiatrist, to a psychologist,” Calderon said.
“Whatever you’re going through, there is help and support and there are people that care about you,” Melissa Rice said.
Active Minds will move on to other colleges and high schools, but they aim to ensure it doesn’t end here. The goal is to encourage constant support and ongoing conversation with whoever may need it.
If you are feeling suicidal or having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. More information can be found at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and National Alliance on Mental Illness.