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Annual Fresh Check Day event raises mental health awareness

Three women kneel and smile while petting a shaggy brown dog.
Meghan Spargo / THE GATEPOST

By Heather Nuttall

Staff Writer

Framingham State University held its sixth annual Fresh Check Day in the McCarthy Center Forum on April 3. The event brought together various organisations from the local area to connect with students through discussions of suicide prevention and mental health.

Fresh Check Day, supported by the Jordan Porco Foundation, is an event held annually in colleges across the country. It aims to build connections between students and mental health resources in an interactive way, according to their website.

The recent event at FSU featured booths run by the University’s SEALS Peer Health Educators, as well as representatives from Call2Talk, Program RISE, and FSU’s Counseling Center, among others.

Each station centered a different area of support. One booth focused on support for veterans, whilst another - run by the FSU softball team - asked students to consider the benefits of exercise to boost mental health. Students also had the chance to interact with therapy animals from Pets & People Foundation.

Pamela Lehmberg, the coordinator of Wellness Education at FSU, said the event had been a great success.

“If you look on their website, you’ll see hundreds and hundreds of different colleges do it at some point during the year because it’s a fun way, a festive atmosphere, to destigmatize talking about mental health, and to provide resources and information for students on how to help themselves or others,” she said.

Lehmberg added that students are more likely to utilize mental health resources if they have already interacted with them.

“We tried to get quite a few of our local partners here to talk. Even just meeting someone from Call2Talk or from Program RISE, it just means you’re a little more likely to use the resource if you need it,” she said.

Cas Barrett, a SEALS peer health educator, also listed this as one of the benefits of the event.

“I really like this event in particular because I think it combines a lot of different important resources that we tend to sprinkle throughout all our other events, and it gives people time to sit with those resources and speak to people from them so they’re more approachable,” they said.

Barrett described various ways to boost mental health in the community, including reaching out to friends and going for walks, and added the Wellness Center runs a mile-long walk every Friday.

“It gives time for people to mine their emotions, talk with each other - really, genuinely connect outside of the internet and all the stress that goes on in the world,” they said.

Maggie McNeill, program manager at Call2Talk, said that it is important to open honest conversations about mental health.

“We really teach and underscore the importance and value of listening, which is something that oftentimes we find seems so easy it’s hard, so just be there, be non-judgemental and empathetic, and be there to support your people,” she said.

McNeill added, “I think there’s been a lot of progress made, but there still can be even more had in terms of destigmatizing mental health and reaching out for support.”

Amy Young Sadler, a harm reduction specialist and MSW clinical intern at Program RISE, spoke on the importance of destigmatizing conversations around substance use.

“I think you can think about your language regarding substance use when you’re discussing it. Try to be as kind and gentle as possible, and realize that it’s not a moral failure - it’s not something that is wrong with someone, it’s just an aspect of their life,” Sadler said.

Sadler explained for students in particular, it’s important to create safe spaces where friends can feel comfortable reaching out.

“No one needs to be the monitor of anyone’s behavior, but if you know that your friend is using substances then just let them know you want them to be safe,” Sadler said.

Sadler added, “Whether you want to encourage them not to use alone, or encourage them to have fentanyl testing strips, or make sure they have Narcan - it’s really just about checking in on your friends and letting them know that you’re a safe person to share what they’re going through with.”


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