According to the American College Health Association, 1,088 college students commit suicide every year; a figure that has been steadily increasing since the 1950s.
In an effort to reverse this trend and spread mental health and suicide awareness, Fairfield’s annual Fresh Check Day was enacted.
On Wednesday, Sept. 17, Fresh Check Day was held on the Quad from noon to 3 p.m. This event is designed to bring awareness to mental health resources and coping strategies on college campuses.
Fresh Check takes a different approach to addressing the issue of suicide than many other programs. Instead of lecturing students about the importance of suicide awareness, Fresh Check provides students with interactive activities that are designed to celebrate life.
“Fresh Check Day is a positive, uplifting way to start important conversations about mental health, wellness and suicide prevention,” Elizabeth McOsker, outreach coordinator of the Jordan Matthew Porco Memorial Foundation, stated.
According to McOsker, “Fresh Check Day is the signature program of the Jordan Matthew Porco Memorial Foundation.” JMPMF was founded by Jordan Porco’s family after he committed suicide while a freshman in college in 2011. In the past three years, 10 Connecticut schools have held Fresh Check Days.
The event consisted of 10 different stations, each with an activity for students to complete. Each activity emphasized how valuable life is, as well as how valuable each individual is.
According to Dean of Students Karen Donoghue ‘03, Fresh Check Day was “an opportunity to celebrate life and have people realize that they’re valued within this community.”
The first station informed students of the startling statistic that one in every 10 college students has contemplated suicide, showing students that suicide is a significant issue, and that the other nine of 10 students can do their part to help those who are suicidal.
“We really want to educate students about that and make sure that they realize that there are many options and resources available to them,” Donoghue said.
However, Erin Monahan ‘18 felt that the program didn’t do enough to show students how to help those who are suicidal.
“It didn’t really prepare you to deal with suicide prevention and being the 9/10 that would prevent the 1/10 from actually committing suicide,” Monahan said. She felt as though the event was more helpful in realizing your own struggles in transitioning into college than in helping others who are struggling.
Another station had students take surveys, which psychological professionals checked over. However, Justine Ferrara ‘18 felt that the process wasn’t private enough.
“I did not like, however, that they told the students right there, in front of big groups of other people, ‘I think you need to talk with someone’ and then brought them to the enclosed tent right next door,” Ferrara said. For Ferrara, it was a very convenient way to have your mental health checked, but the setup wasn’t ideal.
For Monahan, a major highlight of the day was the service dogs.
“They just really made my day better,” Monahan said.
Such service dogs are used as a coping mechanism for those who are stressed or depressed, as it’s proven that petting the dogs is cheerful and relaxing.
This is the second year in a row that Fairfield has hosted Fresh Check Day, and according to Donoghue, the school hopes to continue this event annually.
For Britta Gunneson ‘18, Fresh Check Day was an educational, yet fun, experience.
“I thought that a lot of the activities were very informative. They were able to be engaging and fun, but still be informative on the topics of suicide and mental health,” Gunneson said.
Donoghue hopes that those who attended the event were able to take a positive message away from it.
“If you’re sad or depressed, you’re not alone. There are many people that want to help you, both your friends, as well as professional staff members,” Donoghue said. “Your life is valuable, and we want to make sure that you know that.”