NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A traveling exhibit focused on young adult suicide opened in the Flatiron District on Thursday.

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Alison Malmon, director and founder of Active Minds, said suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students after motor vehicle accidents.

“Send Silence Packing” features 1,100 empty backpacks — each representing the lives of the 1,100 college students lost to suicide each year.

Each bag represents a real person. People are encouraged to stop and read their stories.

“They say a picture’s worth a thousand words,” said Malmon, whose brother, a student at Columbia University, took his own life in 2002. “Many of them actually have the pictures of individuals who have died by suicide.”

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Malmon said suicide is a preventable tragedy and her organization is working to end the shame, stigma and silence.

“We can all play a role to start a dialogue around mental health, start talking about the fact that we may be struggling, or may have friends or family members who have struggled, and know that we’re not alone and really recognize that seeking help is a sign of strength,” Malmon said.

Active Minds is now on more than 300 college campuses offering students a place to turn and seek help.

The one-day exhibit runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Flatiron Plaza on Broadway between 22nd Street and 23rd Street.

“It helps us all recognize that we have a role to play in preventing these tragedies,” she said.

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