Fresh Check Day: It's More Than Just Barn Babies And Free T-Shirts

Fresh Check Day: It's More Than Just Barn Babies And Free T-Shirts

"Checkin'-in with college students" - Learn about mental health and wellness through an amazing experience!
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Fresh Check Day is the signature program of the Jordan Porco Foundation (JPF). JPF is fully committed to preventing suicide, promoting mental health, creating a message of hope, encouraging help-seeking behavior and self-care. Their goal is to educate young adults about the risk factors and warning signs of suicide and other mental health concerns; this message of hope is spread throughout college campuses.

I had the amazing opportunity of not only attending Fresh Check Day, but also participating in it here at Stonehill College. I'm part of Stonehill College's Psychology Society. Being a Psychology major, I was automatically drawn to this club, but I never knew it'd give me the incredible experience of running a table on Fresh Check Day.

Our table focused on the topic of "the elephant in the room," also known as what people don't usually like to share. We discussed how important it is to end the stigma that surrounds talking about "the elephant in the room," or your personal struggle with mental health. You're not alone and we want everyone to know this.

We did more than simply discuss this topic. We did an activity with paper elephants that allowed students to anonymously write their own "elephant in the room."

The workers of the table then proceeded to hang up all of the paper elephants around the booth, showing the different things that people wrote down. You could walk around the booth to see what others wrote and I bet you found a paper elephant that had the same thing written as yours. You don't have to go through anything by yourself.

#EndTheStigma

Our booth also had a positive uplifting vibe to it, thanks to our guest, Ellie the elephant! Ellie definitely gave students a sense of comfort while thinking of what to write.

Along with my experience of personally working a table and having the opportunity to send a message of hope to others while trying to end this stigma, Fresh Check Day is made up of so much more.

Other clubs around campus also participated by having their own tables which surrounded the quad. Each one consisted of their own message and activity. They varied from the dangers of alcohol to steps on how to conquer stress. Free coloring pages were given, diagrams, stress balls, information and much more! While enjoying a stress relieving day, you're also learning at the same time on how to help yourself and others.

What's more stress relieving than petting therapy dogs and cuddling with baby farm animals?

Other students who had the opportunity of working a table at Fresh Check Day only had positives to share as well:

"Everybody has an 'elephant in their room', or something they may go through that they may not feel comfortable discussing with others. But they should realize that they are never alone and that it's OK to talk." - Jessica Infiorati, Stonehill College 2019 (Psychology Society Publicity Coordinator)

"At Fresh Check Day this year, I worked the table for Health At The Hill. We had students write down one reason why they want to stay alive. I feel like it was such a good reminder of all the things we have to look forward to and all the things we have to be grateful for. Sometimes we get caught up in the business of life and stress can overwhelm us, but just taking five minutes to realize all we have that makes life so wonderful can go such a long way." - Alyssa Cristadoro, Stonehill College (Health At The Hill Secretary)

The students who worked the booths are not the only ones who received benefits and happiness from this event. Delighted and pleased comments were heard by everyone who attended:

"Admittedly, I only went to Fresh Check Day for a t-shirt, but I left with so much more. The entire event was extremely relaxing and completing the activities was extremely refreshing because it gave you the opportunity to overall spread happiness for yourself and others. It was a rewarding experience and I feel the event should happen more often on campus because of the benefits associated with it." - Matt Mullen, Stonehill College 2019

"Fresh Check Day is a wonderful opportunity for students to become comfortable with talking about mental health, which is super important on college campuses. The cute animals are just a plus!" - Heather Thibeau, Stonehill College 2019

The goals of Fresh Check Day aren't only said, but they're fully experienced when you attend. Some include:

- Increase awareness of mental health resources and services available to students

- Reduce stigma and misconceptions around mental health and suicide that often deter individuals from seeking help

- Empower peers to be gatekeepers by understanding warning signs and knowing what to do if a friend is exhibiting signs of suicide or a mental health concern

- Increase willingness to ask for help if experiencing emotional distress

Only inspiring and encouraging words were said regarding Fresh Check Day and the true meaning behind it. It provided many students with information about resources, services, stress relief and so much more while having an unforgettable time!

Cover Image Credit: Self

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To All The Nurses In The Making

We tell ourselves that one day it'll all pay off, but will it actually?
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I bet you’re taking a break from studying right now just to read this, aren’t you? Either at the library with friends or in your dorm room. Wherever you may be, you never get the chance to put your books down, at least that’s how it feels to most of us. It sucks feeling like you’ve chosen the hardest major in the world, especially when you see other students barely spending any time studying or doing school work. The exclamation “You’re still here!” is an all too frequent expression from fellow students after recognizing that you’ve spent 10-plus hours in the library. At first it didn’t seem so bad and you told yourself, “This isn’t so difficult, I can handle it,” but fast-forward a few months and you’re questioning if this is really what you want to do with your life.

You can’t keep track of the amount of mental breakdowns you’ve had, how much coffee you’ve consumed, or how many times you’ve called your mom to tell her that you’re dropping out. Nursing is no joke. Half the time it makes you want to go back and change your major, and the other half reminds you why you want to do this, and that is what gets you through it. The thing about being a nursing major is that despite all the difficult exams, labs and overwhelming hours of studying you do, you know that someday you might be the reason someone lives, and you can’t give up on that purpose. We all have our own reasons why we chose nursing -- everyone in your family is a nurse, it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, you’re good at it, or like me, you want to give back to what was given to you. Regardless of what your reasoning is, we all take the same classes, deal with the same professors, and we all have our moments.

I’ve found that groups of students in the same nursing program are like a big family who are unconditionally supportive of each other and offer advice when it’s needed the most. We think that every other college student around us has it so easy, but we know that is not necessarily true. Every major can prove difficult; we’re just a little harder on ourselves. Whenever you feel overwhelmed with your school work and you want to give up, give yourself a minute to imagine where you’ll be in five years -- somewhere in a hospital, taking vitals, and explaining to a patient that everything will be OK. Everything will be worth what we are going through to get to that exact moment.

Remember that the stress and worry about not getting at least a B+ on your anatomy exam is just a small blip of time in our journey; the hours and dedication suck, and it’s those moments that weed us out. Even our advisors tell us that it’s not easy, and they remind us to come up with a back-up plan. Well, I say that if you truly want to be a nurse one day, you must put in your dedication and hard work, study your ass off, stay organized, and you WILL become the nurse you’ve always wanted to be. Don’t let someone discourage you when they relent about how hard nursing is. Take it as motivation to show them that yeah, it is hard, but you know what, I made it through.

With everything you do, give 110 percent and never give up on yourself. If nursing is something that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life, stick with it and remember the lives you will be impacting someday.

SEE ALSO: Why Nursing School Is Different Than Any Other Major

Cover Image Credit: Kaylee O'Neal

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How A Podcast About Murder Helped My Mental Health

And a community that sprang forth became my lifeline.

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Sometimes I wonder what it's like to live without mental illness.

To wake up in the morning and feel secure in your body, your thoughts, your actions, and your relationships.

I don't have that luxury, and neither do 43.8 million Americans in any given year.

So why is it so easy to convince ourselves that we're alone?

I struggled with mental illness before my childhood trauma, which made me an easy target. The effects of my abuse magnified my genetic predisposition to mental health problems. Members from both sides of my family suffer from some type of mental illness. I would never want to offend any relatives of mine, so I won't disclose the number, but let's just say, it's a lot. As for my ancestors, I know a maternal great-grandfather hit my maternal grandfather, and the wife of the aforementioned great-grandfather was an agoraphobic. She mostly only drank tea and ate toast and was rail thin so it's not hard to reach the conclusion that she had an eating disorder.

I am very fortunate in that I grew up in a family who didn't hide from their mental health issues. My mom realized she had anxiety when she was in her very early 20's and was open about it - which for the 1980's was not common. She is the most genuine person I know, and part of that is because she doesn't pretend everything is always perfect.

So, even though my parents were always supportive through my struggles, pushing me to achieve my best while also assuring me that it was okay to take a mental health day from school from time to time, I still felt like I was the only one in the world that felt the way I did.

I won't bore you with the details, but most of my memories from my childhood have to do with anxiety, depression, food, and body issues. I remember telling my parents I had, "that lonely feeling again." Which, was the feeling of my heart in my stomach - the feeling of isolation and sadness and impending doom - something I still deal with today. One of my first words was "safe." I was convinced my parents would die in a car accident. I was five standing in a mirror calling myself fat, I was ten swearing an Oreo would be the last thing I would ever eat, I was eight hoarding food. I was seven, afraid I would crush the horse I was riding because of my weight. I was 12 the first time I made myself throw up.

Anxiety, depression and eating disorders have been woven into the fabric of my being. And working to untangle those threads is a daily struggle.

I'm a firm believer in therapy and medications if that is what's best for your journey. I don't believe in blanket diagnoses, or one size fits all meds. I was hospitalized three times in high school at an inpatient mental health facility, and for me, it didn't help. The final stay, after attempting suicide, journaling was my vehicle out of the darkest place I had been yet.

"I wrote my way out."

When I was 18, I found my way back to God. Recovering memories of being abused is brutal and with my history of mental illness, I don't know what I would have done if I had uncovered the abuse before June 14, 2017. I truly believe that God's timing is always perfect, and I had reached the point in my life where I was ready to receive my truth.

Two months after recovering the memories, I stumbled across a little Podcast called, My Favorite Murder. At that point, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark had been releasing episodes weekly for a little over a year and a half. I was hooked and binged the catalog of episodes.

Not only did it make me realize my love of true crime, but I found an amazing community of some of the most wonderful people I've never met.

What makes Karen and Georgia's Podcast so special isn't the crime. No, it's them. It's their authenticity, their rawness. Their openness about their struggles with addiction, anxiety, depression, body image issues, and their flaws. It's their championing of survivors of abuse and attacks, their support of women, and their dedication to End the Backlog (there are hundreds of thousands of rape kits untested, this organization helps fight that).

Although their opinions sometimes differ from mine, they've created this beautiful space of inclusiveness on the radical notion that as long as you're kind and respectful, you are welcome.

The main Facebook page has hundreds of thousands of followers and pretty early on, people started making spinoff groups, made up of Murderinos (MFM fans) for specific interests. Like apps, there's an MFM spinoff group for anything. From cat lovers to craft enthusiasts to local groups (heyyyy 'Here's the Thing, 518 Everybody') to religious groups (Looking at you 'Thou Shalt Not Murder!'). I joined the latter two groups and loved the little communities.

But then I thought, "Wow, I would really love to join a group for Survivors of abuse." To my surprise, there wasn't one.

I had reached a point in my healing journey that I needed to talk to people who knew what I was going through.

So, I shoved down my negative self-talk that told me no one would want to join a group I made and created a spinoff group.

And Survivorinos was born.

It's been four months since I clicked "create." In that time, we have almost 450 members and this past month I made three strong women moderators to help keep the community running.

For someone who writes a lot and often has (too much) to say, Survivorinos still has me at a loss for words. I started the group because I needed an outlet to vent things that I couldn't say to my friends or family. I needed to share intimate details of my life with people who understood. And what I found was a monumental revelation to me: so many other people needed the same thing.

This community is filled with nothing but love. In a world filled with negativity and fighting, this little corner of the Internet remains focused on helping their fellow man. The stories are heartbreaking, but the comments are uplifting. Love and prayers are sent, advice is given, and memes and animal pictures are abundant.

Now I can't imagine my life without Survivorinos.

Karen and Georgia say all the time how lucky they feel, that their Podcast has turned into this ever-expanding network of humans caring about one another. But it's us, the listeners, who should be thankful. I know I am. Because they took the leap and started this podcast, I found a group of people I didn't even know I needed.

Stay sexy, and keep destigmatizing mental illness and the effects of abuse.

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