Eastern Hosts Mental Health ‘Check in’ with Fresh Check Day

Representatives of the Conduit Center of East Hartford lead students through relaxing sound meditation sessions.

Written by Jolene Potter

In an effort to raise mental health awareness, Eastern Connecticut State University hosted Fresh Check Day on Oct. 11 – a day designed to reduce stigma surrounding mental health issues. The annual Fresh Check Day involves students in interactive booths that deliver mental health and resource information in a fun and engaging way.

Upon entering Fresh Check Day, students were surrounded by the sounds and vibrations of the many instruments used in sound meditation. Students were offered a free sound meditation session by The Conduit Center, a meditation center in East Hartford, whose mission is to facilitate meditative healing and provide education on the benefits of sound in meditation.

One student who struggles with anxiety noted how focusing on the sounds lessened her racing thoughts. Eastern’s President, Elsa Nunez, even sat for a session of relaxation and clarity herself.

Fresh Check Day is all about embracing our inner quirks and letting go of the stigmas that many of us share.

Fresh Check Day utilizes a peer-to-peer messaging model. “We’ve recognized that these messages are better said and received by peers,” said Sandra Rose-Zak, coordinator of the Office of Wellness Education and Promotion. “When speaking to someone with a similar experience, you have a greater interest in what they’re saying. It’s a different impact when coming from peers.”

In accordance with the peer-to-peer messaging model, several student organizations – ranging from the Pride Alliance to the Fine Arts Club – staffed booths designed to engage and educate students about the many resources available on campus and in the local community.

In the “Elephant in the Room” activity organized by Eastern’s Wellness Warriors, students could anonymously write down their struggles and place them in a box. When the box was filled, messages were displayed all together to illustrate that people are not alone in their struggles.

One courageous student noted how the emotional release of identifying herself as a sexual assault survivor encouraged her to pursue counseling to cope with her trauma. Other messages included “I feel alone,” “I’m a perfectionist” and “I have an eating disorder.” Another student explained how the display made him feel less alone, as there are many people with similar struggles.

The Education Club participated in Fresh Check Day by hosting an activity where students wrote messages of hope for those struggling with mental health issues or suicidal thoughts.

“As future educators, it’s imperative for us to take this awareness into our classrooms and to be mindful of how we can help,” said Cameron Bulk, president of Education Club.

Pride Alliance incorporated a celebration of National Coming Out Day into its booth, where students created tie-dye t-shirts with inspirational messages.

“Suicidal ideation and depression are significantly higher among LGBT youth and we are here to support and advertise a safe space for students,” said Devin Parsons, president of Pride Alliance. “There are many students who are still ‘in the closet’ or who have not been properly supported in coming out and we want to be a source of support for them.”

Veterans are a particularly vulnerable population for mental health and many times the stigma of needing help prevents veterans from receiving proper services. In order to support veterans in the local community, representatives from Eastern’s Veterans Center asked students to write thank-you cards for their service.

“Our goal with this event is to help students recognize resources, reduce mental-health stigma and reduce suicide among college-age populations,” concluded Rose-Zak.

In 2012, Eastern was the first college campus to host Fresh Check Day, which has since expanded across the country. The Hartford-based Jordan Porco Foundation is committed to preventing suicide in the high school, college and college-entry student population by building a bridge between students and local mental health resources and programs.