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Media Advisory

U of M students to raise awareness about mental health issues facing college students

1,100 empty chairs to represent number of college students lost to suicide each year in the nation

What: Don’t Sit in Silence: a Mental Health Awareness Day display
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a program from 12:15 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, April 25
Where: Front Plaza, Coffman Union 300 Washington Ave., S.E. Minneapolis

Contacts: Kayla Kelsey, organizer, kelse064@umn.edu, (920) 676-1282
Patty Mattern, University News Service, mattern@umn.edu, (612) 624-2801

April 24, 2012

It will be a sobering sight for those who walk past the University of Minnesota Coffman Union Front Plaza Wednesday, April 25. One thousand, 100 empty chairs will dot Coffman’s Front Plaza serving as a stark reminder of how many college students in the United States die from suicide every year.

The “Don’t Sit in Silence” display aims to draw attention to mental health issues college students face as part of the university’s student-organized Mental Health Awareness Day (MHAD) 2012. Student organizers will have information to share about mental health resources available on campus.

“Don’t Sit in Silence” will become an even more powerful display as organizers plan to attach the personal stories about mental health from U of M students and family members. In the stories, students and others talk about their struggles, triumphs and experiences. Organizers have asked U of M students, faculty, staff, and their friends and families to submit stories and those stories will be attached to the chairs.

On the day of the event, passers-by can walk around the chairs and read the stories. For those who did not submit stories in advance, organizers will provide construction paper, markers and other supplies so students and others can write and attach their story to a chair, or decorate a chair in memory of someone affected by mental health issues.

“By sharing true stories from right within our own campus community, it will help people realize the importance of tending not only to their own mental health, but the mental health of friends, fellow students and family members,” said Kayla Kelsey, one of the organizers.

In addition to these "chair stories," contributors can share their experience in other ways they feel comfortable through written word, video or poster on the MHAD Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/MHAD2012.

Participants will receive free t-shirts that say “I Stand Up For Mental Health Because _______” And, each person can write their reason in the blank. People who submitted a story will get a special color T-shirt. The message on the front of their t-shirts says “I stood up for mental health.” The back of the shirt will say “Don’t Sit in Silence.”

As part of MHAD, there will be program from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the Don’t Sit in Silence display. This will include opening remarks and a respectful moment of silence followed by spoken word artists who will perform illuminating different facets of mental health.

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