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'You are not alone': Eastern hosts Fresh Check Day

Published on October 29, 2021

'You are not alone': Eastern hosts Fresh Check Day

According to TimelyMD, approximately one in four adults over the age of 18 in the United States suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder each year. That would include many college and university students.

While many colleges and universities are addressing student mental health, the latest Student Voice Survey found that 47 percent of students say they could have used some (28 percent) or a lot (19 percent) more support from their college during the pandemic. The same student survey found that only 15 percent of students engaged in college-offered counseling in the past year.

On Oct. 28, the Division of Student Affairs and numerous student organizations at Eastern Connecticut State University raised the bar and answered the call to support students facing mental health challenges by hosting “Fresh Check Day.”

Fresh Check Day is a signature program of the Jordan Porco Memorial Foundation and was designed to help promote intervention and early prevention strategies to increase resiliency and promote positive mental health.

“Many students face incredible challenges,” said Sandra Rose Zak, coordinator of Wellness Education and Promotion at Eastern. “‘Fresh Check Day’ provides an opportunity for students to recognize they are not alone and there are resources for support on the Eastern campus. Students could check in with their peers on the many on- and off-campus resources available to help manage mental health issues.”

“This is an important day for our students because their worlds have been turned around by COVID, and they have had to find ways to care for themselves during these stressful times,” said Jessica Petry, a graduate intern from Hamden in Eastern’s Women’s Center. “As a University and a community, it is up to all of us to help each other through these difficult times to stay healthy and successful.”

Fresh Check Day offered therapy dogs and wellness screenings. Twelve student club booths with messages decorated the Webb Hall lawn, including “Elephant in the Room” by Wellness Warriors; “Be Yourself: Letting Go of Stigma” by the NAACP; “Know Your Limits: How Alcohol Affects Mental Health” by M.A.L.E.S.; “YOUnique: Trash Your Insecurities” by O.A.S; “Thrive” by Cheers; “100 Reasons” by the Billiards Club; “UBelong” by Diversability; and “It Takes a Village” by the Student Government Association. The Connecticut National Guard offered a huge rubber slide with the message “We All Need a Little Help Getting Over the Hurdle.”

The day also provided literature with tips on how to help a friend suffering from an eating disorder, depression, drug and alcohol use, suicide and more. Eastern’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) also provided information on its services. The Wellness Warrior Program, Eastern’s student support network, distributed information on what it takes to become a certified peer mentor.

“Fresh Check Day is so important because it draws attention to different aspects of mental health, such as coping mechanisms like letting someone know that they are not alone,” said Samantha Shatas ’23, a psychology major from Hamden.  “As a psychology major, I realize the importance of checking in on our peers. I am sensitive and aware of the stigmas associated with mental illness. For better mental health, Fresh Check Day will go a long way toward helping those struggling, and even ourselves.”

Shatas also is the president of Habitat for Humanity. She said the club goes hand in hand with Fresh Check Day.  The club’s booth for the day was “Paint Your Art Out.” The art exercise asked students to build a birdhouse and write a stress factor on it. They then were asked to paint over the stress factor, and after the paint dried, to write something positive in their life.

“With this, we wanted to send the message that art is very therapeutic and a coping mechanism for almost anything, whether that be stress that comes with midterms or some other mental health challenge interfering with your day,” said Shatas. She said Habitat for Humanity club members also volunteer to do yard work and other chores in the community as part of the “Hire-a-Habitator” program, which helps people who can’t find the time to do such simple tasks such as raking leaves or putting stamps on a large mailing.

The Jordan Porco Memorial Foundation, Venditto Family, Zak Family and the Office of Accessibility Services provided gift cards and prizes. Fresh Check Day also included entertainment from the A Capella group Key of She and United Voice of Praise, who sang inspiring, uplifting songs. Naples Pizza Truck provided a variety of free hot pizzas.

Written by Dwight Bachman