Second Annual Fresh Check Day Promotes Mental Health Awareness in a Fun, Vibrant Way

March 7, 2017
Second Annual Fresh Check Day Promotes Mental Health Awareness in a Fun, Vibrant Way

One in 10 college students contemplates suicide; the other nine can help them by offering support and resources, according to the Jordan Porco Foundation, creators of Fresh Check Day, a mental health awareness fair for colleges. Wellesley will hold its second annual Fresh Check Day for the College community Wednesday, March 8, from noon to 3 pm in the Alumnae Ballroom. The event will feature interactive booths, a petting zoo with chickens and pigs, chair massages, face painting, food, music, and giveaways.

“Fresh Check Day is a celebratory event with the aim of creating an approachable atmosphere where students are encouraged to engage in dialogue about mental health,” said Robin Cook-Nobles, director of Wellesley’s Counseling Service and dean of the Office of Intercultural Education.

She said the fair’s primary goals are to increase awareness of mental health resources and services available to students; challenge the stigma and misconceptions around mental health and suicide that can deter individuals from seeking help; increase students’ willingness to ask for help; and teach peers to understand warning signals and empower them to know what to do if a friend is exhibiting signs of a mental health issue or of considering suicide.

“We need to increase the likelihood that students will ask for help when they are experiencing emotional distress. The event helps to build a bridge between students and the mental health resources and programs that exist on campus, in the community, as well as on the national level,” said Cook-Nobles.

“Events like Fresh Check Day are a fun and vibrant way of conveying the message that mental health matters and that accessing resources is normal,” said Agnes “Aggie” Rieger ’17, president of Wellesley College Active Minds, which hosts various campus events to promote self-care and education about mental health. “I hope that students take away a sense of community support and awareness, and the message that seeking help is a strength.”

Last year, Rieger was on a student committee that met with Cook-Nobles to brainstorm about Wellesley’s inaugural Fresh Check Day. She also coordinated sign-ups for Active Minds volunteers and helped plan the group’s booth for the event.

Rieger, who hopes to research mental illnesses after graduation, is actively involved this year as well, and on March 25 she will receive the Student Mental Health Advocate of the Year award at the Jordan Porco Foundation’s annual gala event.

“We are so pleased that Aggie won. She has been actively involved with Active Minds since her first year at Wellesley, and she is deeply committed to mental health and has played an important leadership role in connecting with her peers around mental health awareness and education,” said Cook-Nobles. “In so doing, Aggie has worked in close collaboration and partnership with the Counseling Service, for which we are grateful.” 

“The award is very validating, not just for me, of course, but for all the work that the Active Minds executive board, general members, and mental health educators have done over the last few years to build up our organization,” Rieger said. “The award also validates the efforts of the Stone Center and Robin, all of the people who worked Fresh Check Day, and the group of students and professors who support Active Minds throughout the year.”

Rieger, who also volunteers as a hotline counselor for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, continued: “Making lasting change isn’t about one day. None of this is about one day or one person. Teamwork and community commitment are crucial.”

The Jordan Porco Foundation was founded by the family of Jordan Porco in 2011, after he committed suicide during his first year of college. This year’s Fresh Check Day event at Wellesley is sponsored by the Stone Center Counseling Service in partnership with the Division of Student Life; the Wellness Committee; the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life; the Office of Intercultural Education; the Wellesley College Health Service; Campus Police; PERA; the Office of Disability Services; Residential Life; and Sustainability. Four student groups have also been involved: Active Minds, College Government, Sexual Assault Awareness for Everyone, and the Student Organizations Appointments Committee on campus.