By Brendan Capuano
As finals week quickly approaches at colleges across the country, 27 graduate students in the Sacred Heart University physician’s assistant program have taken proactive measures to educate students about the importance of mental health at this stressful time of year.
“College students and people that were, or are currently in the military are at highest risk for taking their own lives, and it’s still a topic that is very much not discussed in mainstream, we get to people too late far too often. Our eyes aren’t open, our antennas aren’t out the way it needs to be,” said Dr. Dale Atkins.
At Atkins is a psychologist, author, motivational speaker, and frequent commentator on NBC’s Today Show and CNN’s Headline News programs on the topic of mental health and suicide.
Fresh Check Day is a national program run by the Jordan Porco Foundation to educate students about mental health awareness, as well as destress in the week leading up to finals.
“The Jordan Porco Foundation was founded in 2011 by Ernie and Marisa Porco after they lost their son, Jordan, to suicide when he was a freshman in college,” said the Jordan Porco Foundation (JPF) website.
The website also said that the Foundation is committed to preventing suicide in high school and colleges through awareness, education, and by challenging the stigmas around mental health.
Various booths were set up across the 63’s patio and were sponsored by various clubs and organizations.
The Wellness Center, Public Safety, the office of Campus Ministry, s.w.e.e.t. Peer Educators, therapy dogs, 100 Reasons to Live, and a rock wall sponsored by the Rise Up campaign against sexual assault, and more had a presence at the event.
Clinical Assistant Professor in the Health Science department, Dr. Deborah List, was instrumental in bringing this event to campus for its fifth year. “Certainty we need this event on campus to emphasize the importance of mental health awareness,” said List.
According to the JPF website one in ten college students contemplates suicide.
“That means nine out of ten students have an opportunity to help each one who is struggling,” said the JPF website.
“Nine out of Ten” is a program run by the JPF to give students the resources to identify a person in need of help. The nine out of ten website says that suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students
“Nine out of Ten” also sites the signs of someone at risk of committing suicide are isolation, trouble in school, change in mood/behavior, seeming depressed or anxious, risk-taking/recklessness/self-harm, taking about suicide, eating and sleeping issues, experiencing trauma, and giving away possessions.
“I was very honored to be asked to be here,” said Atkins “Something like this is a wonderful, fun, open, inclusive way of addressing the many different ways people can become aware of taking care of their own mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health.”
“Fresh Check Day is a great way to take the pulse of our students while they’re out having fun. Our students’ mental health needs are every bit as important as their physical and educational needs, ” said President John J. Petillo on the Fresh Check Day website. “There’s no room for stigma when it comes to the well-being of our students.”