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Fresh Check Day focuses on student mental health

Published on October 31, 2023

Fresh Check Day focuses on student mental health

Various services were represented, including service animals.

The "Elephant in the Room" booth

Students were encouraged to participate with raffle prizes.

Students poured into the Betty Tipton room on Oct. 19 for Eastern’s Fresh Check Day, an event addressing mental health and suicide among college students. The event was meant to build community across campus and to encourage students to take care of each other. 

Fresh Check Day was co-sponsored with the Jordan Porco Foundation, whose mission is to reduce suicide in the college-age population, in which suicide is the third leading cause of death. 

Coordinator of Wellness Education and Promotion Sandra Rose-Zak said, “The goal of the event was to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and help-seeking, increase awareness of mental health resources on campus and within the community, and help students to recognize the signs when a friend, roommate, teammate, family member or colleague is in need of support.” 

Since the turn of the 21st century, mental health crises on college campuses have increased exponentially. Depression- and anxiety-related struggles remain prevalent among young adults, especially as they begin to explore independence when attending university. The American College Health Association's spring 2023 National College Health Assessment revealed that more than 74% of the 78,000 undergraduates surveyed were experiencing moderate to serious psychological distress. 

“Fresh Check is successful because of the amazing student leaders and their willingness to engage and check in with their peers,” said Starsheemar Byrum, coordinator of the Women’s Center. “Seeing this further motivates faculty and staff to ensure that we are doing the same and more.” 

From raffle tables to music therapy, the discussions were centered around mental health. Signs advertising various services available to students were spread throughout the room, including the crisis line at 9-8-8 and an option of texting HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 for free crisis support.  

Representatives from various clubs and organizations set up booths for students to visit. Some of these included “100 reasons to stay alive” run by the Book Club and the “Uplift” booth ran by Best Buddies.  

“The overall theme was to do things that make you smile,” said Best Buddies President Allyson Daleb ’24. “We made friendship bracelets as a way to integrate self-care with our club's mission of friendship.” 

Other activities included “Smashing Insecurities,” where students could write their insecurities on a plate and smash it to symbolize their fight against these negative feelings, “Mood Matters,” where students decorated face masks, representing that we often hide behind a mask and don’t show our true feelings and the “Elephant In the Room,” where students were invited to write anonymously one word that defines a secret they are hiding from others, because sometimes, “we need to talk about the elephant in the room.” 

“Events like this are so important because depression and anxiety occur at such overwhelmingly high rates in college students and therefore check-ins with your mental health can be incredibly useful,” Daleb said. 

“Giving students the tools to sense, identify and speak about their mental health status empowers them to trust their own intuition,” said Byrum. “Additionally, when students have a platform to speak up, it helps to confront the shame that many people carry when struggling to deal with mental health matters in their lives and the lives of those close to them.” 

Some students came in groups of friends, which helped them learn how to best support each other throughout their time at Eastern and beyond. Others came by themselves and made new friends along the way. Regardless of how the students arrived, it was clear that they were all unified with the same goal: to better the Eastern campus. 

“The best part of this event is the peer-to-peer messaging,” Rose-Zak said. “Students are empowered to help others by understanding the warning signs of a mental health concern and how to offer support.” 

Daleb said, “I think that the variety of booths was important, but what I found to be truly a standout aspect of the event was the social aspect of the event. You got to see so many people and realize that other people are experiencing similar difficulties and that you are not alone.” 

“I strongly believe that events like Fresh Check Day directly improve students’ academic success and, I’d like to think, their sense of belonging on campus,” Byrum said. 

After visiting the different booths, students were invited to sign the pledge banner, pledging to be one of the nine out of 10 students who can support the one out of 10 who may experience a mental health crisis. 

“This creates a community of support,” said Rose-Zak. 

“We spend so much time doing schoolwork and working,” Daleb said, “that sometimes we forget to take time for ourselves.” 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 9-8-8 for mental health or 9-1-1 for all other emergencies. 

Written by Marcus Grant