Fresh Check Day is a program that was developed by the Jordan Porco Foundation to amplify messages about mental health promotion and suicide prevention on college campuses. The Foundation provides programming that emphasizes peer-to-peer messaging that encourages students to engage in meaningful conversations and dialogue about mental health.
“Fresh Check is designed to increase awareness, reduce stigma, address misconceptions about mental health that often serve as barriers to those seeking support, empower the larger community to identify warning signs and raise awareness about resources,” Kristina Stevens, director of mental health for the University of Connecticut’s Student Health and Wellness, said.
This year, Fresh Check Day at UConn was rebranded to ‘Fresh Check Week’ and provided students with various opportunities to get involved and become better educated about the importance of breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health. The activities were held virtually and in-person to allow the entire UConn community to take part.
The UConn Suicide Prevention Committee is the leading organization that spearheads this initiative each year on the UConn campus and, according to Stevens, they did a great job of creating innovative and engaging programming with a shortened timeframe due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Fresh Check events are focused on creating the space and environment where students can engage in discussions and activities that promote mental health, highlight the importance of mental health and build bridges between students and the services and supports that are available at the university, community and national levels,” Stevens said.
The events kicked off with a ‘Stomp Out the Stigma Walk’ that invited members of the UConn community to walk two miles in solidarity to raise awareness about the importance of making mental health a priority on campus. Another activity was the ‘Paint Your Art Out’ event that invited students to take part in a step-by-step paint session. The remainder of the events focused on various aspects of mental health promotion, including a guided meditation seminar, a presentation about how uncertainty can lead to the development of anxiety and mood disorders, an open mic night and an interactive card game called ‘We’re Not Really Strangers’ aimed at empowering meaningful connections.
All of the events were geared toward providing students with a safe space where they were able to prioritize their own mental health and learn how to become strong advocates and support systems for friends and family members who might be struggling with mental health.
“In recent years there has been a significant rise in the demand for mental health services among the college-aged population both here at UConn and across the country, making it that much more important to create the conditions that fully support students,” Stevens said.
UConn joins many other universities across the United States and almost 30 other schools in Connecticut who also celebrate Fresh Check Day and are a part of a coalition dedicated to making mental health a priority for college students.
“At UConn, the goals of Fresh Check remain our focus all year round,” Stevens said. “We are committed to continuing our work with partners across the university community to promote mental health, reduce stigma and increase access that supports overall mental health and wellbeing for all UConn students.”
Many groups and committees, like The UConn Suicide Prevention Committee, along with individuals, like Stevens, are dedicated to increasing the mental health resources that are available on UConn’s campus while also challenging the stigma and misconceptions that exist about mental health and suicide that often prevent students from seeking help. Although Fresh Check Day only occurs once each year, it is important to prioritize mental health every day to remind UConn students that they are not alone and continue to spread the mission of the Jordan Porco Foundation.
“What this means day to day is looking out for one another as members of the community, and that collectively we create a culture that promotes and supports the mental health and well-being of all students,” Stevens said.