Checking in

October kicks off with a motivational speaker and Fresh Check Day

By on October 9, 2019

Midterms are approaching, classes are getting harder and the air is getting colder. For some college students, this is a time when homesickness is setting in, as well as stress or depression. The week of Oct. 7 through Oct. 11, is Mental Health Awareness Week and with this in mind, Student Health Services at Quinnipiac hosted an inspirational speaker and a Fresh Check Day to help students check in with themselves and ensure they start the second half of the semester on the right foot.

JORDAN BURNHAM

Emotions ran high, and all was quiet, as the young man spoke.

“If I can’t make anyone happy, what’s the point of being here?” he said. “That was the night I attempted suicide by jumping out my nine-story window.”

Jordan Burnham is a motivational speaker from the organization “Minding Your Mind.” He spoke to Quinnipiac students on Oct. 3, about mental health, depression and suicide. Burnham’s mission is to open up dialogue and educate students about mental health and encourage them to speak up about their own issues.

“Even though one in four college students will suffer from a mental health disorder, a lot of them won’t seek help, won’t seek treatment,” Burnham said.

Burnham was among those who didn’t actively seek professional help, relying on his older sister to be his “rock” throughout his youth. However, when his sister went off to college Burnham found that he was alone and seemingly without anyone to turn to, not even his parents or friends.

Burnham was forced to move twice as a young child as a result of his father applying for, and receiving, positions at different high schools in different parts of Pennsylvania. At these new schools, he said he was treated harshly, not only because of his status as “the new kid”, but also because he didn’t talk or act like the other kids did. Without his older sister, his only confidant, Burnham said he began bottling up his feelings and beginning his descent into depression.

Burnham continued his story, illustrating his struggles with opening up to, and seeing, his therapist, his first suicide attempt which launced him into months of counseling in a behavioral hospital and his eventual diagnosis with depression. He recounted his struggles with trusting his therapist how he “lied to her to get out of her office as quickly as possible” and how he doubted that a female adult could understand the thoughts and actions of a young sixteen year old male.

In addition to these problems, Burnham said he faced common problems that many teenagers face: keeping up with an older sibling, making his parents proud, struggling with grades and having issues with friends or significant others.

However, Burnham didn’t only struggle with suicidal thoughts, but also a dependency on alcohol. His use of alcohol got him in trouble multiple times with the police, his family and his school, and was the inciting factor that lead to his second and more serious suicide attempt — when he jumped nine stories out of the window in his bedroom.

Burnham stressed how mental health is a widespread issue and healing is an ongoing commitment that must be worked on. He referenced the numerous sessions of therapy he has had throughout the aftermath of his suicide attempt, as well as the addiction to substances like alcohol or anti-depressant pills.

Burnham ended the night by answering questions from the audience and giving advice on how to best help friends that are suffering from mental illness by helping them find ways to cope and opening up about his own issues with alcohol abuse.

“I honestly felt like it was really beautiful, as in a lot of people go through and they don’t talk about it [depression],” Gabriella Vitelli, a sophomore who attended the presentation, said. “And knowing family members and friends in high school who’ve gone through situations like this, just seeing how he has coped with it and comparing these stories and knowing it’s a reality, it’s something going in everyone’s lives.”

FRESH CHECK DAY

Quinnipiac hosted its fourth Fresh Check Day on Monday, Oct. 6, where students had the opportunity to check-in with their emotions and mental health.

The Jordan Porco Foundation created Fresh Check Day on college campuses as a way for students to engage in an open dialogue about mental health. The mission of the Jordan Porco Foundation is to prevent suicide and promote mental health.

Alyssa Naumann
“We’re all going to have some type of stress, we’re all going to have some emotions that don’t always feel so great,” Kerry Patton, executive director of health and wellness said. “And how we can know some different strategies to help, and also help a friend because whether you’re a teenager, college student or adult, relationships are important, and how you can help one another,”

Fresh Check Day aims to increase awareness of mental health resources for students and to challenge stigma and misconceptions around mental health.

To spread the word about mental health, the event included booths that targeted various topics like body image, stress, emotions and how to take care of yourself.

“College is a really stressful time,” Emily McCave, associate professor of social work, said. “There’s a lot of transitions, they have a lot of stress with classes, relationships, sports, and they really need to reach out because they don’t have to do it on their own.”

McCave volunteered at the ‘100 Reasons to Stay’ booth, which communicated the message that suicide is preventable. By connecting students to resources and educating them on warning signs, McCave said that mental health is important and it’s OK to talk about it.

“The purpose of our booth is just to remind people to relax sometimes, not everything can go your way, smile,” Sean Patten, senior journalism major, said. “College is never easy, you’re going to get bumps and bruises down the road, but it will all work out in the end.”

Patten worked at the ‘Uplift’ booth, with the message to do things that make you smile. Other booths also aimed to remind students to put themselves and their health first.

“Sometimes everyone gets caught up in what they have to do, and Fresh Check Day gives people the time to realize that they need to take time for themselves and remember the importance and also give them tools in order to do so,” Natakki Jones, senior psychology major, said.

Jones volunteered at the ‘Elephant in the Room’ booth where students could write down insecurities, burdens or secrets that they want to get off their chest. Jones said that many of the things students wrote down are not commonly talked about or are stigmatized.

“We’re out in the open and we’re talking about it and that helps break down the stigma that it’s something that you should keep to yourself because it doesn’t do anyone any good for it to be bottled up or kept behind closed doors,” Lindsey Downey, junior criminal justice major, said.

Downey worked the ‘Be Yourself’ booth, where attention was drawn to the mental health of the LGBTQ community. Here, an ally chain was created with encouraging messages to the LGBTQ community to show support for those struggling with their mental health.

Activities similar to the ally chain encouraged student’s participation. The event offered various activities to engage students to join the conversation about mental health like spinning trivia wheels, petting a dog, getting a massage and receiving gong therapy.

“We do want to get out the word that it takes all of us to be able to start a conversation and to ask people how they’re doing and to really listen,” McCave said.

With the booths, activities and free food, the event was able to catch the attention of students passing by.

“We were just walking by and we saw it and saw that it was about mental health which is very important,” Jenny McLaughlin, freshman nursing major, said. “Obviously in our first year we get a lot of homework and assignments and tests so it’s good to keep your mental health in check.”

Downey said that with all of the pressures and expectations at college, it can take a toll on students’ mental health.

“It should be a time that you enjoy and even if it’s hard sometimes it doesn’t mean that you should be struggling so much that you start neglecting yourself and your basic needs,” Downey said.

Overall, Patton and other organizers were happy with the turnout at the event. However, she wanted to emphasize that mental health always needs attention, beyond the one day that Quinnipiac addresses it’s importance.

“I think it’s important for us, whether you’re a college student, to be able to identify and be in tune to how we’re feeling,” Patton said. “I think it is a lifelong skill that we’re all going to need.”

Reporting by William Gavin and Alyssa Naumann

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