At a time when college students nationwide are struggling with mental health, Buffalo State University is hosting a proactive, positive event to provide its students with concrete coping tools in an interactive environment.
Fresh Check Day, the signature program of the Jordan Porco Foundation, will be held Monday, February 27, from noon to 3:00 p.m. in the second-floor lobby of the Campbell Student Union. The event will be repeated in the fall on Monday, September 18.
Sponsored by Buffalo State’s Weigel Health Promotion and a grant from the Porco Foundation, Fresh Check Day is free and open to the entire Buffalo State community. The event will feature interactive booths, peer-to-peer messaging, education sessions led by campus representatives, entertainment, refreshments, and prizes.
“We’ve learned how important it is to share mental health information. People need a variety of tools in their tool belt to help them during the good times and the bad.”
— Paula Madrigal, M.S.W., Assistant Director of Prevention and Health Promotion, Weigel Wellness Center
The nonprofit Porco Foundation, based in Hartford, Connecticut, was formed by Ernie and Marisa Porco in 2011 after they lost their son, Jordan, to suicide when he was a freshman in college. Since its inception, Fresh Check has been implemented at 175 colleges and universities in 42 states, including one at Buffalo State in 2016.
“What we’ve learned since then is how important it is to share mental health information,” said Paula Madrigal, assistant director of prevention and health promotion, who is spearheading the event. “Mental health wasn’t great before the coronavirus pandemic; however, the pandemic, with its resulting isolation, fear, and uncertainty, only exacerbated the situation for many young people
“Events like this, with peer messaging and hands-on activities, really resonate with students as well as faculty and staff,” she said. “People need a variety of tools in their tool belt to help them during the good times and the bad. When do you need to take a breath or take a step back, and what does that look like for you compared to someone else?”
During the 2020–2021 school year, more than 60 percent of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem, according to the Healthy Minds Study, which collects data from 373 campuses nationwide. In another national survey, conducted by the American Health Association in 2021, almost three-quarters of students reported moderate or severe psychological distress.
Fresh Check Day will include representatives from Buffalo State’s Counseling Center, Anne Frank Project, University Police, Muriel A. Howard Honors Program, and Veteran and Military Services Office with the aim of connecting with students from many different demographics.
For instance, “At Ease” is specifically meant to educate students about Buffalo State’s military students and the challenges they face. “Know Your Limits” will be run by University Police and focuses on alcohol use, including offering activities with “drunk goggles,” while “UBelong” specifically has resources for nontraditional students. In addition, students will have the opportunity to work on an art project with representatives from the honors program and enjoy ice cream from Chartwells at the “Check In and Chill Out” booth.
Outside partners, including Therapy Dogs from Erie County SPCA Paws for Love, Sound Bowls from Ambient Sound Healing, Big Big Table, and the Erie County Department of Health, will also be present to share what their organizations can offer.
The purpose of Fresh Check is to point students to tools beyond counseling when they’re experiencing depression or anxiety, Madrigal said.
“While counseling is great, and I’m grateful we have terrific mental health counselors on campus, students need to know about other resources and coping techniques,” she said. “There’s Crisis Services in the community for acute care, and self-help strategies for smaller issues. We’re going to coach the participants on actions they can take for stress—meditate, go to the gym, call friends, whatever works for them. The beauty of this event is that it focuses on the diversity of our campus and the different issues different populations and individuals may face.”
Video by John Myers and Ken Giangreco, Buffalo State Creative Services, Marketing and Communications Office.
Photos by Jesse Steffan-Colucci, Buffalo State photographer.