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Fresh Check Day spreads awareness

By Tyler Kennedy

Tables were assembled to promote suicide prevention and mental health resources on Thursday.
Tables were assembled to promote suicide prevention and mental health resources on Thursday.

By Tyler Kennedy

Staff Writer

With an intention to bring awareness towards suicide prevention and mental health resources on campus, Fresh Check Day was hosted by UNH in the Granite State Room this past Thursday, Oct. 29.

The celebratory fair-like event is a program that was put on and funded by the Jordan Porco Foundation (JPF) in coordination with the university.

Ryan Walsh, who is currently an intern at UNH Health Services, had been working on organizing this event since being appointed to the position in June.

“With this event, we are promoting the resources here at UNH, and having students see them without the use of pamphlets. It gives us a special opportunity to showcases all that UNH has to offer,” Walsh said.

A wide-range of organizations were represented at the event, along with over 100 volunteers who helped to manage the many activities. Such activities included stress-ball making, coloring, and appearances of multiple therapeutic dogs.

Jane Garofalo, a junior, sat at one table entitled Mindful Eating: A Simple Mindfulness Meditation Exercise and Technique.

“Especially at college age, everyone needs to be aware of how they’re feeling: mentally, physically and emotionally. With all these outlets you could go to, with regards to nutrition especially, it’s a very good thing,” Garofalo said.

With a mission to prevent suicide in the high school, college, and college entry student population, JPF has now held Fresh Check Days at 31 colleges, most of them being primarily located in the Northeast.

Founded in 2011 with a central office located in Hartford, Connecticut, JPF was named after Marisa Giarnella-Porco’s son, who committed suicide during his freshman year at St. Michael’s College in Vermont.

Giarnella-Porco, who serves as the chief executive officer and co-founder of the foundation, drove up from Connecticut that morning to attend the event.

“After he (Jordan) died, we really tried to figure out what we could do to reach students like my son,” she said. “What we wanted was an interactive mental health event that was engaging and would reach people that wouldn’t normally go to a mental-health event. So between the music, the incentives, and that kind-of festive environment, it casts a wider net for students to get involved with the dialogue about mental health.”

The foundation hosted their first Fresh Check Day in 2012 at Eastern Connecticut State University. 

Giarnella-Porco made note that it’s highly reasonable for freshman students to go through periods of uncertainty in regards to the decisions they’re making for their education.

“This is an event that will let people know that they’re not alone with whatever anxieties they have about that transition in their life.”

In regards to the turn out by the student body, Giarnella-Porco spoke on the notion of how current students might viewing the situation of mental health.

“For me, it means that this generation of students really want to talk about the subject. And that physical health cannot really be something that is separated from mental health. … I like the fact that peers are involved, student groups are involved, and that the messages are coming from people who have passion about the different subjects that are showcased at Fresh Check Day,”

This event comes on the heels of UNH receiving the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant, which provides approximately $100,000 a year for three years to the University.

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