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Southwest Minnesota State University has been named the first runner-up for the 2016 Outstanding Fresh Check Day Campus Award, a nationwide award presented by the Jordan Porco Foundation.
SMSU hosted its first ever Fresh Check Day, a mental health and wellness-like fair, on Nov. 2, 2016 in the Student Center. SMSU will be honored at the Jordan's Journey 6th Annual Gala on March 25, 2017 at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn.
The award recognizes outstanding planning, promotion and implementation of Fresh Check Day, outstanding engagement and messaging at booths, and high student attendance as a result of outreach. The University of Connecticut will receive the 2016 award, with SMSU recognized as first runner-up.
Dr. Sara Fier and Diane Stieper, event coordinators from the Counseling and Testing Services office, were pleased with the turnout and feedback received from students and faculty.
“There is still a stigma associated with mental health,” Fier said, “and this event broke through that stigma to reach the students.”
Feedback from students showed many had a new realization of the prevalence of mental illness among their peers. Others said they no longer feel so isolated. “People don’t realize how common it is to struggle with mental health, and they feel so alone. But it might be the person standing next to them who has the same thing, they just don’t know it,” Fier said.
Various groups coordinated each of approximately 20 interactive booths and activities. “The event couldn’t have come together without the input from so many groups across campus and in the community,” Fier said.
Several off-campus organizations participated, including Western Mental Health Center, New Horizons Crisis Center and Beyond the Yellow Ribbon.
Faculty were supportive from the beginning and encouraged students to attend, Fier stated. “Several professors offered extra credit, and some sent their entire classes to participate,” she said. “It was heartwarming,” Stieper added.
“It was amazing to see students excited to be there,” Stieper said. “Sometimes when we have other tabling events, the students will make a big circle to walk as far around the table as possible. This was very different.”
Fresh Check Day is the signature program of the Jordan Porco Foundation, founded in 2011 by Ernie and Marisa Porco after they lost their son, Jordan, to suicide when he was a freshman in college. In their grief, Jordan’s parents learned the statistics surrounding mental health and suicide in the young adult population, and decided they needed to turn their grief into action so that other families would never have to experience such a profound loss. The Jordan Porco Foundation is committed to preventing suicide in the high school, college and college-entry student population.
Based on the positive feedback, plans are in the works to hold additional Fresh Check Days in the future. In the meantime, students can access the numerous resources available both online and through the Counseling and Testing Services office.
“We are always available to talk to students, whether they have concerns for themselves or others,” said Fier. Online resources range from information about various wellness topics to interactive mental health screenings students can complete for self-evaluation. Resources can be found at http://www.smsu.edu/campuslife/counselingtestingservices/.
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