University of Michigan students and the campus community wrote messages of hope on wooden tiles for an installation aiming to shed light on suicide and mental health issues on the Diag Monday morning.
Christine Asidao, associate director of community engagement and outreach for Counseling and Psychological Services said the two-hour event, titled Hope on the Diag, aimed to humanize the issue of suicide instead of talking about it through statistics.
“(CAPS) has always done suicide prevention work, but a few years ago a few of us had individual stories where someone we knew had died of suicide,” Asidao said. “We really talked about the importance of more ‘heart’ messages as opposed to just the data that’s shared about suicide.”
Asidao said the event has been a regular feature of CAPS for the past few years.
LSA sophomore Mayur Bandekar, who said he lost an acquaintance to suicide before the school year began, was at a loss of words as he faced the wooden tiles, but still wanted to send a positive message to those who suffer from depression.
“I don’t know what to say, dude,” Bandekar said. “But you should always remember that everything’s gonna be OK no matter how bad it is right now, no matter how dark your place is right now, everything will always be OK. You just gotta always push through.”
Hope on the Diag also featured a booth run by the Silence Shoot, a Lansing-based project that supports victims of bullying and depression through photography. Matthew Bryan Pruitt, founder and photographer at the Silence Shoot, started the project five years ago as a way to bring a sense of unity to his younger brother and sister, who were bullied to the point of contemplating suicide.
“I feel like if someone is being bullied, or anything really, and they feel lonely, that is the quickest way that they would commit suicide,” Pruitt said. “So my hopes in the photos is that it creates a sense of unity with people that have thought of suicide or have been bullied and so that people that think they are alone … their feelings go away.”
Silence Shoot’s photographs are each in black and white, except for a piece of red tape that covers the subject’s mouth. Pruitt said the tape represents the forced silence of victims of bullying, but also represents survivors and allies that stand together against bullying.
Silence Shoot, which tours around college campuses in Michigan to spread awareness, will post the photos on their website and Facebook page.
A Nursing freshman who requested to go by only her first name, Kat, said she wrote “You’re Loved” on the wooden tile to share with others the feeling that got her through her own depression.
“We always all have the thought that ‘If I die, will people remember me? Could I just disappear and nobody would notice?’ ” Kat said. “What people don’t realize is that they are loved, and there’s so many people there for them. And if they just let somebody know that they’re having a bad day, someone will always be there to help you. And that’s what friends and family are for.”