The University hosted Fresh Check Day last week, on Thursday, Feb. 27. Mainly planned by Wellness Intern Colby Sangree ’18 and Director of Health Education Tanya Purdy, the event at Usdan was a wellness fair with interactive booths, free food, and prizes.
“Fresh Check Day is an awareness event, to raise awareness about mental health, about resources for well being, and to reduce stigma around mental health,” Purdy said. “It was created by an organization called the Jordan Matthew Portco Foundation. [Portco] was a young man who died by suicide when he was in college, and so his family wanted to create a legacy where they could hopefully prevent other suicides [amongst other] college students.”
Fresh Check Days are beginning to spread across the country, and are currently taking place in both Connecticut and Massachusetts.
“[The foundation] actually got in touch with us,” Purdy said. “They asked us if we were interested in sponsoring a Fresh Check Day, and we said yes of course, because this is amazing. Then they sort of gave us some loose guidelines to follow. They really wanted the event to be unique to each campus. They want us to be raising awareness about what resources we have on campus and to make sure that it’s really a community thing.”
Together, Sangree and Purdy designed all the stations at the fair, even down to the ingredients they used for the trail mix table. It has been a big project of Sangree’s since December. They initially heard about the event this past November, and thought it would be a great thing for the University to get involved with.
“I think mental health is hard for everyone to talk about…especially at Wesleyan, where it’s such a stressful environment academically,” Sangree said. “So many people suffer silently from depression and suicidal idealization…. Making it a fun interactive thing where people can feel empowered to ask for help and to help other people, I think, is a great way to engage people, because it doesn’t make them feel scared or nervous about approaching such a difficult subject.”
Also present at Fresh Check Day were the University’s Peer Health advocates, the University’s Counseling and Psychological services, and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, all to offer their support to the student body.
“We are here because we are raising awareness of all the resources that we have for students, but hopefully in a destigmatizing way,” Purdy said. “[This is] so people don’t have to go over to the office and ask for help. They come here, [and] they get self care items.”
Another topic that was promoted at the event was the idea of positive psychology.
“We talked about positive psychology, and hopefully it’s just a really friendly way to get to know… how to help yourself,” Purdy said. “[However], if you have a friend [in need], it [also] helps you answer questions like: ‘How do you talk to them?’ and ‘How do you offer them resources?’”
Fresh Check Day is also connected to a similar month-long event called the Wellness Experience, during which students can sign up to be given a number of self help resources.
“A lot of this stuff is about identifying…whether or not you need to make an appointment with a therapist,” Purdy said. “But [it’s] also about being able to identify [something] like, ‘Hey, you know writing a gratitude list everyday is going to uplift my spirit in this really holistic way. I’m going to try that and see if that’s what I need to get through this semester, to get through midterms.’ I think sometimes you just have to put yourself out there and try different things to discover what it is that’s going to help you and be right for you. It’s not a one size fits all thing, and that’s why we have ten different booths here, so that you can…get a sense of all the things that are offered.”
Despite the success of Thursday’s event, Sangree noted that they had been apprehensive during the planning process.
“I’m so happy that so many people turned up and seem so engaged and enthusiastic about it,” Sangree said. “I have to say that in organizing [Fresh Check Day], my expectations for it kind of oscillated from really high to really low to really high to really low, which I think happens with all projects, but for it to turn out so well is just really exciting.”
According to Mae Moskin ’19, who attended the event, the event was both enjoyable and helpful.
“I thought the fair was really great,” Moskin said. “They covered serious topics such as student suicides and eating disorders, which I think was very necessary, but also had fun activities like ‘Make Your Own Stress Ball.’ Everyone who worked it was really nice and made me feel more comfortable about reaching out, should I ever need to.”