Last Wednesday, March 7, the Wellesley College Counseling Service and the Stone Center sponsored their third annual Fresh Check Day in Tishman Commons. Despite inclement weather, 107 students enjoyed activities ranging from prize giveaways and healthy snacks to mental health screenings and massages.
Held at schools nationwide, Fresh Check Day is part of the Jordan Porco Foundation, an organization founded by Ernie and Marisa Porco in 2011 after their son, Jordan, committed suicide while in college. Today, it offers high schools, colleges and universities educational programs to initiate conversations concerning mental health and build a network of resources accessible to students.
At the center of the event was the Nine out of Ten pledge, a larger campaign supported by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. After participating in activities and games to educate themselves about mental health issues on Wellesley’s campus and beyond, students were called upon to take the pledge to support and be an advocate for the one out of every 10 college students that contemplate suicide, which is the second leading cause of death among college students.
Director of the Counseling Service and Dean of the Office of Intercultural Education Robin Cook-Nobles served as one of the lead organizers of the event. She explained that “the goals of Fresh Check Day are to increase awareness, reduce stigma, empower others to be gatekeepers and to increase willingness to ask for help. It is a different way of programming for mental health and suicide prevention awareness.”
At the event’s check-in table, participants received stamp cards and were able to visit a variety of tables covering a broad array of both physical and mental wellness issues. By partaking in activities at each station and getting their cards stamped, students were entered for a raffle for a television, provided by the Jordan Porco Foundation. Although one of Fresh Check Day’s highly anticipated events, the petting zoo, was cancelled due to harsh weather conditions, Cook-Nobles reassured students that it will be rescheduled for later in the spring semester.
Taylor Balfour ’21 visited several tables at the event, including the Nine out of Ten, Athletic Training Room (ATR), alcohol consumption and positivity stations. Balfour applauded how the event made starting conversations about wellness more accessible to students through its interactive activities. “I liked the ATR table’s games and the Nine for Ten bingo game because I actually learned something through the interactive exercises. I think events like these help to raise awareness about mental health. For instance, through the bingo game, I learned that one in 10 college students have suicidal thoughts, which was really startling,” she said.
Cook-Nobles elaborated on this phenomenon, pointing out that the interactive nature of the event “engages the community and provides information in an atmosphere of fun and collaboration that de-stigmatizes mental health.”
However, Balfour believes that the event could have gone even further in supporting the needs of students in the long term. “While I think these events are valuable, I see them as very disconnected from the Stone Center, and they appear more as pop-ups than as tied into a greater network of resources,” she explained.
It seems that Fresh Check Day was successful in its mission to “create an approachable and hopeful atmosphere where students are encouraged to engage in dialogue about mental health,” as the national website explains, but the connection between its events and the resources that are available to Wellesley students could be further emphasized. For more information on Fresh Check Day, please visit www.rememberingjordan.org or freshcheckday.com.