Despite the brisk temperature and drizzling weather, the Student Union Lawn was teeming with activity and liveliness yesterday. With baby cows to pet and lawn games to play, the University of Connecticut’s annual Fresh Check Day served its role as an integral part of Spring Weekend. The theme for this year, “Bloom,” was chosen to “encourage students to think about how to support their mental health bloom in positive ways,” according to event sponsor Counseling and Mental Health Services (CMHS).
“The event is a fantastic way for a bunch of departments and organizations that may not normally be related to work together to make something amazing,” sixth-semester political science major Dennis Mema said.
Mema serves as chairperson of the Mental Health and Wellness subcommittee of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Student Services Committee.
The program is held at other universities across the nation to promote mental health awareness, self-care and suicide prevention. The goal is to create an approachable, hopeful atmosphere for students to engage in dialogue about mental health, as well as promote the mental health resources available. Reducing the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental health and suicide that prevent people from seeking help is also a key goal.
“There were a ton of activities that all hopefully culminated in the greater understanding of mental health issues, ways we can help those suffering from them and how regular people can keep themselves mentally healthy,” Mema said. “This year was a bit cold and rainy but I’m glad the turnout was still high. We were able to communicate with so many people, and it means people do really care!”
Booths and tents covered the lawn as students interacted with the fair’s countless activities. Free food was available in abundance, from cookies to the famous Impossible Burger, which many students were excited to try.
“I think Fresh Check Day went very well,” fourth-semester political science and music dual degree student Fiorella Contreras said. “It seemed like attendance was pretty large despite it being cold and windy. It’s important that we have events like these, not only to remind students to prioritize their mental health, but to give them resources.”
Students were able to register for a stamp card to be stamped at stalls around the lawn that focused on self-care. When students completed this scavenger hunt, they could be entered to win a raffle with cool prizes like free t-shirts, an Amazon Echo and a gift card to Hop Knot.
“Each of the tents offered an activity or method that provided some sort of relaxation or expression,” Contreras said. “At this age, being a full time student can be very demanding and challenging, especially if we decide to take on more roles, whether that be work or extracurriculars. It’s necessary for us to know how to manage our stress and that our campus does its best to contribute to the effort.’
The baby cows and therapy dogs were crowd pleasers, and rightly so. Officer Tildy, the beloved golden retriever-Labrador mix of the UConn Police Department, even made an appearance. And if petting the cows wasn’t enough, the CMHS booth gave away squishy cow keychains to event-goers.
“I pet baby cows and so many dogs,” second-semester pre-teaching exploratory student Margalit Hausman said. “Tildy gave me a kiss. It was amazing.”
Another popular activity was scale smashing, one of the stress relievers available at the fair. Students were invited to literally smash a weighing scale with a sledgehammer to alleviate some of the anxiety surrounding weight and physical appearance. A more low-key stress reliever allowed students to pot their own plants to take home.
“For such a cold day, the experience I got from Fresh Check Day gave me warmth,” second-semester nursing major Jessica Berry said. “Seeing the whole UConn community out was such an amazing experience!”
Students who want to learn more about the counseling services available at UConn are encouraged to visit CMHS on the fourth floor of the Arjona Building, or visit their website at counseling.uconn.edu. They offer free and confidential support in-person during business hours, or anytime by calling (860) 486-4705. Other important resources recommended by CMHS include the Crisis Text Line, where you can text HOME to 741741, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255.
Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.