To Director of Counseling Services Janell McGruder Fresh Check Day is about spreading mental health awareness and helping reduce the stigma of mental illness.
“Here at Knox, we try to promote [a] stigma-free campus. We also offer advocacy appointments regarding individuals who [may have been] sexually assaulted or having questions about the Title IX process,” McGruder said.
McGruder shared information about various counseling services available to students at Knox such as individual counseling, group counseling and consultation appointments. According to McGruder, the counseling staff even provides pet therapy which includes students interacting with emotional support dogs.
Freshman Neori Yasumaru was curious about mental health and decided she wanted to know what Fresh Check Day was all about. In particular, Yasumaru wanted to know about suicide prevention.
“I learned how to be helpful towards someone who has suicidal thoughts. I feel really proud that Knox hosted this whole day for students. The Harambee booth was very interesting. It taught me that it is [considered shameful] in Africa to be mentally ill,” Yasumaru said.
President of Harambee and sophomore Ravie Boungou was at one of the Fresh Check booths providing perspective into the mental health issues inside her community. Boungou affirmed that mental health is still very much a taboo subject in Africa.
“We’re informing ourselves and the community saying that although this may be the pattern in our mother country, here at Knox we will really promote the culture of mental health awareness,” Boungou said.
Boungou was a volunteer last year and got to go to every booth. She stated that the experience really helped her understand mental health awareness in a new way.
“It was very [much] a learning and growing experience for me because I didn’t know a lot of things and I appreciate [having gone],” Boungou said.
Fellow Harambee member and sophomore Natalie Juarez stated that she was glad to see that Knox made sure to include different cultural perspectives at Fresh Check Day.
“Knox does a really good job of having people from all around the world. So having the representation of different cultural backgrounds and opening up the platform to talk about mental health, I think is very important. Even from my experience, in my family, [mental health] is not something that we really talk about,” Juarez said.
Similarly, freshman Majo Santana-Garcia volunteered for Fresh Check Day because she thinks that it is important to be aware of mental health problems. She wants to volunteer in the upcoming years as well and would love to pursue volunteering as a part-time job.
“I think it is important to be constant in these kinds of events so that you can be familiar with types of social issues going on,” Santana-Garcia said.
In terms of what Santana-Garcia got out of Fresh Check Day, she stated that the experience of being around people also interested in mental health has been crucial.
“I aim to take knowledge and also experience with people who are interested in the same field as I am, i.e. mental health and the issues with it, and the stigma that comes from it,” Santana-Garcia said.
For Juarez, Fresh Check Day is something that can last for more than just one event. She wants students to take their ability to be open with their mental health back to their homes and their friends.
“I encourage activities and interactions like this to open dialogue. So even if you are in the suite or with your roommate, you can talk about things like this and understand [the] resources. That’s the reason I’m here today,” Juarez said.
Furthermore, McGruder wants people to know that Fresh Check Day can be the start of getting more advanced help. Counseling services for students are paid through tuition fees, regardless of whether students attend or not. McGruder believes that all students should take advantage of the service.
According to McGruder, the best way to schedule an appointment is to give the counseling center a call or email and to come into the center to take a quick intake exam. Afterward, students get placed with a counselor that can best address their concerns or fit their schedule.
“What I want the students to know about Fresh Check Day and counseling services is that we are here for you and it is a free service to students. There is no problem too small, so we are ready to see you when you’re ready to see us,” McGruder said.