Fresh Check Day, a national, fair-like event that aims to promote mental health and prevent suicide on college campuses, will make its way to Drexel University on April 19 at Lancaster Walk, as part of the university’s increased focus on mental health and well-being.
Using peer-to-peer messaging to create an approachable atmosphere where students are encouraged to discuss mental health, Fresh Check Day is intended to increase awareness of mental health resources and services, while also reducing misconceptions regarding mental health and empowering peers to be gatekeepers by understanding warning signs.
“This program really helps students take ownership of the source of their well-being,” Dr. Paul Furtaw, associate director of counseling at Drexel, said.
“There are things at Drexel that you can do, there are people you can talk to, there are resources and tools that you can access if you don’t just stuff it down and you actually talk about it — and this is a fun way to do that,” Laura Sherbondy, the coordinator of fitness and wellness for Drexel recreational athletics, added.
With free food, games, giveaways and live music provided by MAD Dragon Records, Sherbondy explained how students will experience the look and feel of a carnival. But in the midst of the fun will be the opportunity to have deeply personal conversations about mental health and wellness.
The event features seven informational booths, titled Nine out of Ten, Rise Up, Know Your Limit, Boost, Be Yourself, 100 Reasons and Paint Your Art Out. Students are eligible to win prizes after visiting five booths.
While each booth serves a distinct purpose, all booths will contain professionals from the counseling center in addition to representatives from Drexel’s Active Minds organization, a peer-to-peer mental health advocacy and awareness group, so that all levels of conversation regarding mental awareness can take place.
“It is a prompt for self-care,” Furtaw said. “We want it to plant a seed for something.”
But beyond the potential self-reflective effect, the team hopes the event will encourage students to build relationships with fellow Dragons. Not only can students directly affected by mental health and other wellness issues directly connect with other students at the fair, but they can also continue to be advocates of their loved ones who may be undergoing these feelings even long after the event is over.
“Students are taking charge of each others’ well-beings,” Furtaw said. “Students want to hear from their peers — that’s what works.”
Fresh Check Day also aims to normalize the concept of well-being, thus encouraging more honest conversations.
“It’s okay to not be okay,” Sherbondy said.
Furtaw explained how the topic of well-being is particularly important for Drexel students who are coping with the university’s rigorous environment. In addition to the vocational realities like coping with academic difficulties and maneuvering through unsteady job markets, he cited pressures that are often triggered through social media as contributing factors behind students’ deteriorating wellness.
While he appreciates the great efforts that many Drexel students strive to take as they battle the chaotic quarter system, he hopes the event will inspire students to ground themselves and take a step back from their hard work, he said.
“Give yourself credit for the journey and not just the destination,” Furtaw said. “Celebrate the efforts and not just the outcome.”
The event not only represents the integration between mental and physical wellness at the university, but increased efforts to enhance student wellness overall.
Sherbondy, who currently heads the “wellness on wheels” program at the university — an on-demand program that brings tailored workshops focused on stress management, building healthy relationships and fitness through group activities like meditation and yoga — explained how wellness is now becoming more comprehensive at all levels of the university.
“We are moving towards a more well campus,” she said, explaining how senior leadership has been very supportive of the efforts.
Furtaw added that there have been increased resources to promote wellness on campus. Earlier this year, his department received funding from the university president’s office for more staff psychologists to concentrate on preventive measures. The Recreation Center has also expanded the resources dedicated to student mental health.
Furtaw has also recently applied for a grant that could fund further wellness activities in the future.
The duo’s goal is to continue the conversation about wellness and they are excited to kick off the discussion through Fresh Check Day, which they are hoping can become an annual event that students look forward to.
“We are hoping to sustain a commitment to mental health and well-being and making them a part of regular conversation at Drexel,” Furtaw said.
The event will take place from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The rain location will be at the Recreation Courts.