MILWAUKEE -- Suicide is the second leading cause of death on a college campus after accidents, according to the CDC. But a powerful exhibit on Marquette University's campus had students talking about how to prevent it.
It looked more like a graveyard than Marquette's campus: 1,100 backpacks representing the 1,100 college students nationally who die by suicide each year were displayed as part of a national traveling exhibit for Active Minds, an organization dedicated to raising mental health awareness -- each backpack with a real story of a student who died by suicide.
"It's supposed to be a shock," said Markie Pasternak, Marquette University Active Minds president.
As students walked to class, Pasternak hoped they'd stop to read the letters from family and friends about their loves ones lost to suicide.
"Students need to be provoked to say 'what are those backpacks' and start talking to their friend or the person they are walking next to about this," said Pasternak.
Pasternak is president of the Marquette chapter of Active Minds, the mental health awareness organization that created the exhibit. One of her best friends nearly took her own life.
It can be sad walking through the rows of backpacks, reading the stories and remembering the lives lost, but counselors say the most important thing to remember is that suicide is preventable.
"We can educate people and have them come and get help, and hopefully prevent this from happening," said Michael Zebrowski, Marquette Counseling Center Director.
Campus counselors will help a student identify what's triggering the suicidal thoughts and come up with a plan.
Each backpack offers hope for a conversation to start and the stigma to stop.
The exhibit is called "Send Silence Packing." It is a nationally recognized exhibit, traveling to college campuses across the country, and was only at Marquette for the day on Wednesday, September 30th.
Marquette will have more events in the coming days in an effort to prevent suicide.