Travelling backpack display at Porterville College promotes suicide prevention

September 30, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
For the first time a travelling backpack display visited Porterville and brought a powerful message.

. Chris Brisson, 18-years-old, relives the excruciating memory of when his father committed suicide last year, "My step mom found him hanging in the rafters in our garage," Brisson said. The memory of losing someone who he calls hero is still too much for Brisson to think about sometimes.

"My dad thought he had solved all problems but what he really did was cut out a piece of everyone's heart who cared and loved him," Brisson said.

Brisson read a note left on a backpack honoring his father. The backpack is one of more than a thousand that are strewn along Porterville College's campus, all part of a suicide awareness and prevention traveling display sponsored by the school's Active Minds Club.

"If we can help one person then it was well worth it. If someone thinking about it knows help is just a phone call away or reaches out to one person then we're there," Susie LaLa from Porterville College said.

Each of the 1,100 backpacks represents one college student who has lost their life from suicide over the past year. One backpack had the names of some people in Porterville who had recently taken their own lives. The list includes several correctional officers, a teacher and two young students. Julie Grzybek lost her ex-husband, Dan, to suicide last year. She and their children hope this event influences someone struggling with depression or another illness to seek help.

"I just want people to know that there is help, don't be afraid don't be ashamed to get the proper help to save a life," said Julie Grzybek whose ex-husband committed suicide.

Some backpacks had personal messages pinned to the backpack that actually belonged to that suicide victim. The event was open to the public with many making their way across the grass, reading many of their stories.

"I think it's great, I never even heard of it but I'm so glad to be here today and working with it I wouldn't want to be doing anything else right now," Brisson said.

The backpacks will next travel to Fresno City College before making their way to other college campuses across the country.


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