Send Silence Packing exhibit visits Clovis Community College, honors former student

Backpacks are displayed throughout campus at Clovis Community College as part of the Send Silence Packing campaign, a nationally recognized traveling exhibition of donated backpacks representing college students lost to suicide each year. (Daniel Leon/Clovis Roundup)

Send Silence Packing, a national traveling backpack exhibit that raises awareness about suicide prevention and mental health resources, stopped by Clovis Community College Tuesday afternoon.

The campaign, started by Active Minds Inc. in Washington D.C., is centered around a display of over 1,000 backpacks that represents the number of college students lost to suicide each year.

During the exhibit, the school’s Active Minds Club dedicated a backpack in honor of Audrey Heyne, a former CCC student who committed suicide in 2016, with her parents, sister and best friend in attendance for the special dedication.

Former Clovis Community College student Audrey Heyne lost her life to suicide in 2016. (Contributed)

“I am deeply honored that you have decided to include Audrey in this exhibit,” said Audrey’s mother, Cecilia as she addressed those in attendance. “She truly was a wonderful person and we cherished her. Thank you for not forgetting. If one person can be saved by this exhibit, then her being a part of this is significant. On behalf of my family, we truly are grateful for this and to Clovis Community [College] for helping make her last year a wonderful one.”

Since Heyne’s passing, the college and its Active Minds Club have continued to work hard to bring awareness to mental health and suicide prevention. A memorial scholarship, The Audrey Heyne Memorial Scholarship, has been created and will be awarded in September.

“It was actually my first week on the job here when that happened,” Kira Tippins, the college’s Dean of Students, said of Heyne’s suicide. “That really shook us because you always hear about it but it’s never in your own home necessarily. Being the one to communicate to the faculty that their student wouldn’t be returning and setting up grief counseling for the other students was hard. I did attend the funeral on behalf of the college and it just shook us because it was one of our own. So, we really try to do our due diligence when it comes to proactive measures around mental health.”

The 1,000-plus backpacks, displayed in high-traffic areas of campus, gave a visual representation of the scope of the problem and the number of victims. Each backpack included a note with a biography and picture of suicide victims.

The backpack dedicated in memory of Audrey Heyne (1997-2016). (Daniel Leon/Clovis Roundup)

For this event, Clovis Community College and the Active Minds Clubs set up a booth to share the various suicide prevention resources available to students, adults, and veterans. CCC also has a psychologist on campus to provide resources to those battling mental health illness.

“It really hit me hard when I arrived on campus today,” said Samantha Maciel, the club’s vice president and a Clovis North graduate. “I started crying because the community has been impacted by suicides. Last year in Clovis Unified [School District], we lost 5-6 students within a short period of time – and no one would talk about it. We, [the students], felt very isolated and didn’t know how to deal with it. Coming to this college – and coming to an environment where mental health is talked about – is so refreshing and impactful.”

For anyone thinking about suicide or worried about a friend in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text COURAGE to the Crisis Text Line (741-741). For resources on how to “Be a Friend” to someone who is struggling with a mental health issue, visit www.activeminds.org/beafriend.