College celebrates mental health

by Celia Carbone / Beacon Correspondent • October 20, 2016

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A student signs up for the Student Health Advisory Board
A student signs up for the Student Health Advisory Board

Emerson students debunked the stigma surrounding self-care and mental health by setting time out of their day aside to relax and recuperate at the annual Fresh Check Day.

Fresh Check Day is an outreach program of the Jordan Porco Foundation. It was founded in 2011 by Ernie and Marisa Porco in memory of their son, who committed suicide in his freshman year of college, according to the foundation’s website. The event took place Oct. 13 in the multipurpose room and common spaces in Piano Row.

Kellie Fuller, director of enrollment services and support, worked with the mental health initiative team on campus to bring Fresh Check Day back to Emerson for a second year. Thirteen faculty representatives from campus collaborated to continue the campus-wide conversation on mental health. The team meets monthly to foster new ways to spread the message across campus.

“The goal [of the event] is to start conversations about mental health in a positive and stigma-free environment,” Fuller said.

Fresh Check Day featured 11 booths, each sponsored by a different academic department to promote a different aspect of self-care. Fuller said this initiative is meant to educate Emerson students and staff.

Junior marketing communications major Tessa Pollock is the creator of the self-care group Stitch-n-Bitch, in which students are encouraged to bring their knitting and vent about their days in a welcoming environment. Pollock knitted with students at the fair, offering a glimpse of what the biweekly meetings are like.

“Stitch-n-Bitch focuses on self-care and taking time out of your day to focus on yourself,” Pollock said. “Carving time out of your day for that is necessary for Emerson students and having [this time] set in schedule is important.”

Students weighed in on body positivity by writing down their insecurities and then shredding them at the self-titled station. The message is to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit by embracing imperfections.

Paint Your Heart Out featured painting stations to decorate porcelain piggy banks. Art therapy is not only a form of self-expression, but also has mental and physical health benefits including relaxation, reduced anxiety and increased self-esteem, according to the American Art Therapy Association.

Elise Harrison, director of Emerson Counseling and Psychological Services, handed out self-care kits with chocolate, lavender, earplugs, and other de-stressing essentials.

“We are working to reduce the stigma about stress and emotional issues and provide support for people to take care of themselves,” Harrison said.

Active Minds, the only student mental health advocacy group on campus, according to junior member Emily Pearless who was also present. Its mission is to debunk the stigmas and myths surrounding mental health in a stress-free environment.

“Active Minds is in tune to what the Emerson community is interested in,” Pearless said. “We focus on the issues voiced by students.”

Students pledged to educate themselves on mental health and the warning signs of suicide by signing a community banner for Nine Out of Ten. Residence Director Matt Carney represented the organization at Fresh Check Day and said its mission is to spread awareness of suicide prevention. One out of 10 students will contemplate suicide, according to Nine Out of Ten. The station offered handouts on the warning signs of suicide and how to take action to help a friend.

Outside of Fresh Check Day, Fuller and her initiative team encourage students to seek help from the various on-campus resources to learn the signs and ways to treat mental health conditions.