Fresh Check Day aims to lessen the stigma about mental health

Fresh Check Day, which is in its third year at the UI, will take place today in Hubbard Park. The event aims to educate students about the mental health resources offered on campus.


Osama Khalid

To raise awareness about mental health, the first UI Mental Health fair was held in the IMU on April 5, 2017.

Charles Peckman, News Reporter

Hubbard Park will be bustling today for the third-annual Fresh Check Day, a mental-health resource fair organized by University Counseling Service and 22 other campus and community organizations.

The event, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., aims to provide students with information about mental-health resources on campus. It will offer interactive booths, music, food, and prizes.

Although the event is in its third year at the University of Iowa, this is the first time it is being held in conjunction with Homecoming. UI Counseling Service Director Barry Schreier said the purpose of the event is twofold, combining the atmosphere of a fair while disseminating information about difficult topics such as anxiety and depression.

“In terms of the positive outcomes, I think folks don’t necessarily anticipate everyone who is really involved with the mental health of this campus — I also think Fresh Check Day really helps normalize mental-health care, which can be a difficult concept to grasp at times,” he said.

Schreier said that in addition to providing the atmosphere of a fair, another important element is educating students about the new services offered by the Counseling Service.

“We’ve rolled out a variety of services, including Let’s Talk Hawks and our embedded counselors in the residence halls,” he said. “These ‘drop-in’ services are a chance for us to lessen the stigma surrounding seeking help and also allows students to test the waters.”

Let’s Talk Hawks allows students to stop by and discuss whatever problems they may face, whether it be relationship concerns or class-related anxiety, Schreier said. The program takes place on Tuesdays from 5:30-7 p.m. in Burge, Wednesdays from 5:30-7 p.m. in Mayflower, and Thursdays from 4-5 p.m. in Petersen.

Like Schreier, Kelly Clougher, the Counseling Service’s assistant outreach director, said she looks forward to the connections made at Fresh Check Day.

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“I think it’s important for the visibility of mental health and what it may look like, especially looking at the signs of mental-health problems like suicidal thoughts and thinking,” she said. “That’s why Fresh Check Day is really important and on top of that is a fun atmosphere.”

One of the organizations involved with the event, Active Minds, works toward lessening the stigma surrounding mental illness. UI student Morgane Tatchoum, the group’s social-media manager, said Active Minds members have looked forward to the event all year.

“Our members have definitely expressed interest in [Fresh Check Day], because we’re all interested in boosting support for mental-health care on campus,” Tatchoum said. “We’re excited because it’s not only a fun event, but it will also help the momentum of mental health on campus.”

On a national scale, Fresh Check Day is embraced by dozens of universities and colleges — in Iowa, Buena Vista University and Waldorf University also participate. Overall, Schreier said, organizing the event is a lot of work, but is more than worth it.

“The event, on a large scale, is really one of those ‘it takes a village’ kind of days,” he said. “When we get together to discuss something like mental-health concerns, we need to not only talk about what’s on the surface but what’s happening at a deeper level as well. I think this is a perfect encapsulation of people coming together for a greater good.”