New school year. First time away from home. New dorms. New faces. Those picture-perfect early days of the school year — for both freshman and returning students — can be an exciting time, chock full of the emotions that go along with freedom and making your way in the world. But, for some students it can all be a little overwhelming. Feelings of loss, not fitting in, wondering if anyone else feels just as alone as they do. To combat those very real — and we now know far more common — feelings than people admit to, Stonehill is hosting its first Fresh Check Day, a celebratory fair-like event to bring mental health awareness and coping strategies to campus.
“We all struggle at some times, we all have moments of anxiety and loneliness, but we’re here for each other at Stonehill,” says Jessica Greene, the college’s wellness coordinator and organizer of Fresh Check Day. “Our Fresh Check Day will help students get out of their comfort zones. They can join a new club or sport. They can volunteer or make other connections.”
Fresh Check Day, which takes place on September 26 from 1 to 4 p.m. on the Quad is part of a national program that uses a peer-to-peer model and interactive booths to build a bridge between students and the mental health resources and programs that exist on campus, in the community and on a national level. Founded by The Jordan Porco Foundation, Fresh Check Days are being held this fall on a wide range of college campuses.
At Fresh Check Day, there will food and live music. All tables will provide interactive experiences, so that students connect both with one another and the services available. For example, one of the tables will feature the Gratitude Project, where students will fill out, decorate and address postcards to someone who has made a different in their lives. At the Be Yourself table, students will tie-dye t-shirts while focusing on their positive attributes and what they like best about themselves.
Nationwide, 44 percent of college students report feeling symptoms of depression, yet they overwhelmingly do not talk about or seek help for mental health problems. About 19 percent of young people contemplate or attempt suicide each year, according to Psych Central. In addition to Fresh Check Day, Stonehill offers confidential, short-term personal counseling around a variety of topics. Students often pursue counseling during their time at Stonehill for support in areas such as adjustment, time management, grief and loss, decision-making, anxiety, low mood and interpersonal relationships
“Fresh Check Day will include a lot of fun activities, like yoga and art projects, and opportunities to sign up for clubs,” says Greene, “but we’ll also have plenty of information about the mental health support services on campus and suicide prevention and we’ll provide free flu shots.”
The day will also feature the nationwide “Love is Louder” campaign, which seeks to raise the volume around the message that love and support are louder than any internal or external voices that bring us down or cause us pain. At Fresh Check Day, students will be able to create photos and videos in which they fill in the blank, “Love is Louder than _______.” Their responses will be included the national dialogue.
“Fresh Check Day is very much a peer to peer event,” says Greene. “If you’re that shy person up in your dorm room, we want to encourage you to come join us and find out what’s going on, to make even one new acquaintance with the potential to be a friend. The more connections you have, the more support networks you’ll have.”