For our “Writing that Matters” civic engagement project, my group contributed to Westfield State’s first ever Fresh Check Day, an event held on college campuses around the country to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues, to encourage students to speak up about mental health concerns, and to bring to light the fact that there are 1,100 college student suicides each year. Despite the somber reason for Fresh Check Day, the event provides a lively and fun environment in which students connect with each other, become allies for the mental health community, and work to prevent suicide. Participants visit activity booths, interact and connect with fellow students, and compete for cool prizes.
We organized the Honors Program-sponsored “Reach Out” booth to educate participants about how important it is to make connections with others. To help facilitate these connections among Westfield State students we made a ball pit out of a kids’ blow up pool and 1,000 plastic balls. Students could hop in and make a new friend by asking fun questions written on big beach balls.
Our booth also featured Westfield State’s “Tell Me about Your Day” campaign led by Caroline Koty, a social work major, which encourages students to actively ask others about their day and to listen, rather than just accepting the usual “fine.” One volunteer at our booth, Jillian Dicken, explained, “I was surprised how engaged everyone was.” Julia Nedry from the Counseling Center reflected on the event, saying, “I am gratified when I think back on the fun, welcoming, and positive atmosphere that we created; it felt so alive, and what better than that for a suicide prevention event?”
Fresh Check Day was a great platform to let people know that it is okay to be open about anxiety, depression, and any other mental health issues, that they can feel safe to share, and that they are not alone. Since this event I have been trying to have more meaningful talks with friends and family. I encourage all Honors students to volunteer for this event. Fresh Check Day is centered around community, and it has really helped me to feel included in something special.
Brooke is an Elementary Education and Liberal Studies dual major from East Taunton, MA.
Reprinted from the Squirrel Squire, the newsletter of the Honors Program