By Daria Purdy ’19
Assistant News Editor
From Oct. 30 to Nov. 3, the Office of Residence Life is holding the fourth annual Mental Health Awareness Week. Events are held throughout the week to help spark conversation and break down stigmas around mental health on the Providence College campus.
Glovine Beauport, the complex director of McVinney Hall, was instrumental in planning the events of Mental Health Awareness Week. She said, “One of the main themes of the week is the power of your voice. We want to encourage students using their voice to embrace one another and destigmatize mental health.”
The week kicked off with Fresh Check Day, held in ’64 Hall on Monday, October 30. The premise behind Fresh Check Day comes from the Jordan Porco Foundation, which was founded in 20ll by Ernie and Marisa Porco after they lost their son, Jordan, to suicide when he was a freshman in college. According to the foundation, Fresh Check Day “aims to create an approachable atmosphere where students are encouraged to engage in dialogue about mental health.”
The foundation emphasizes the statistic that 1 in 10 college students contemplate suicide, and that on the flip side of this there are 9 out 10 college students that are able to help and reach out to the people who are struggling. Fresh Check Day embodies these ideas of connection, reaching out, and providing resources for people in trouble.
There were 11 different booths set up for Fresh Check Day. These booths included “100 Reasons,” which listed 100 reasons to stay and put love letters from students on trees, to eventually be taken and read by others.
Another booth was “Elephant in the Room,” where students were able to write down and display a concern or worry that they had. As Beauport describes, “There is always one thing that keeps us down, and this allows us to share it with the world.”
The booth “Check In and Chill Out” provided information about suicide and mental health resources on campus. There were also mood assessment tests and substance use tests that students were able to take. Counselors from the Personal Counseling Center were present to talk to students that got an unexpected score, and counselors were ready at the Center to have a full counseling session with any students who felt like they needed it.
The booth also contained pieces of tree, in which students could write within each individual tree ring. Dr. Rosemary Mugan, director of the Personal Counseling Center, was present at the booth and described the tree rings as “an opportunity to write a message to yourself about your own personal growth.” Beyond the booths, students were able to eat Insomnia Cookies and enjoy the upbeat music blasting through the speakers.
That night, a vigil was held in St. Dominic Chapel, to pray for those who are struggling and to remember the loved ones who had died from suicide. Every year, 1,100 college students commit suicide. The vigil gave students an opportunity to pray for who have committed suicide and those who are currently struggling, and Fresh Check Day gave students space to talk about mental health and opportunities to recognize the worth of themselves and their community.
On Tuesday, October 31, an event called Mental Health is Never TaBOO! Was held in ’64 Hall. As Beauport describes, students were able to participate in a “mindfulness creative arts activity.” Students made cubes, on which they wrote different strengths that they believed themselves to have. The event allowed the students to relax by participating in a craft, and served to remind them of their self-worth and self-belief.
On Thursday, November 2, two writing workshops will be held with Evander Wilson of ProvSlam, a poetry slam housed in AS220 and New Urban Arts. The workshops will be based on poetry. Beauport says they are meant to “teach students how to use a creative outlet,” which can be very helpful in maintaining good mental health. The two sessions will be at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in Guzman 250.
The week will cap off on Friday, November 3, with the Coffeehouse event in McPhail’s at 6 p.m. The event will feature 20 planned acts, giving messages of hope, love, and support. Along with the acts, the event will have an open mic session for those that wish to speak.
The Office of Residence Life created a video with the residence life staff, in which each staff member wrote a love letter in support of people or groups. The staff members expressed support for marginalized groups, those affected by the DACA repeal, their residents, and anyone experiencing loneliness and isolation, among other things. The video can be accessed in the Morning Mail sent out on Monday, October 30. The messages expressed correspond to the purpose of all the events during Mental Health Awareness Week: to remind the PC community members of their self-worth, give them connections and resources, and to open conversation in an effort to destigmatize mental health.