When you’ve walked by the Student Union this week, you might have noticed the small yellow flags peppering the front lawn. You might have just glanced at them, and then continued walking by, unbeknownst to their significance and meaning. However, this particular week calls all of us to not only notice all of these flags, but also what they symbolize. With 1,100 flags, each one represents a college student’s death by suicide.
Once one understands just what this display is meant to visualize, it becomes much more somber. Each flag represents an individual - a college student, a person that could quite easily be someone we come across on campus. The Field of Memories, as the display of yellow flags is called, is meant to call attention to this jarring reality, as well as remember those lost to suicide.
The UConn group Active Minds organizes the Field of Memories every year during Suicide Prevention Week. The organization is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health on college campuses and sharing information about suicide prevention. Members work to change the conversation about mental health and fight the stigma surrounding it.
“For Suicide Prevention Week, we do the Field of Memories and put up 1,100 flags for 1,100 students on average who commit suicide on college campuses every year,” Geraldine Uribe, a first-semester student in the exploratory program and a member of Active Minds, said.
The group is tabling every day this week in front of the Union to accompany the display. In conjunction with Student Health and Wellness and multiple other organizations on campus, like the Women’s Center and Helping Everyone Learn to Prevent Suicide (HELPS), there are multiple events on campus for Suicide Prevention Week touted under this year’s theme, “Listen Louder.”
“Every year, we have a theme, and this year it’s ‘Listen Louder.’ We’re trying to show UConn students the reasons why we listen because we listen to everybody and we want to make sure that everyone is going to be okay,” Uribe said.
Along with buttons promoting students to “listen louder,” Active Minds’ table also has a poster available for students to post their own reason why they listen in exchange for a t-shirt. They also have information available about mental health, such as ways to manage stress, the services available from the Mental Health department of Student Health and Wellness and the suicide prevention training offered by UConn HELPS.
The flags and the display may seem small and unassuming. A lot of people walk by without noticing them or looking to see what they mean. But Active Minds and other groups on campus are bringing attention to the fact that we cannot turn a similar blind eye to those who may need help with their mental health and need someone to listen to them. Make sure to stop by the Field of Memories in honor of the college students lost to suicide and learn more about how you can spread mental health awareness on campus.
Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.