In an effort to help students become more aware of mental health issues, there will be a Fresh Check Day. The event aims to promote positive mental health and suicide prevention on college campuses. There will be interactive peer-led booths, entertainment, free food, prizes and giveaways. The event has the support of multiple campus departments and organizations.
According to Counselor and Suicide Prevention Project Coordinator Lisa Thompson-Gibson, after the positive response they had received last year, it was only necessary they come back bigger and better.
“We started doing suicide awareness last year and we had gotten a very positive response from the community and we wanted to look for something engaging and come up with a way to broaden the topic,” Thompson-Gibson said. “We wanted [people] to see the connection between suicide and mental health. So, Fresh Check Day covers a lot of different topics and we wanted to be as open and welcoming as possible and for the community to have a part in it.”
When it comes to physical health and mental health, Thompson-Gibson said it is important that we treat both instances with the same awareness.
“In our life span, we are able to do a lot of different things and our bodies can respond positively to it,” Thompson-Gibson said. “With mental health, we have to be able to take the same type of idea and understand in our life span, people have different ways of coping so when people go the gym to keep our physical health in shape, we have to do the same for our mental health.”
College is a fun, yet stressful experience and according to Thompson-Gibson, students are going through a major change in their lives and respond to the experience of college in different ways. Some might react positively to stress while some might react negatively.
“Coping with changes in life, we may respond with sadness or high stress and anxiety and there are some who are going to respond to changes by becoming depressed,” Thompson-Gibson said. “It all depends on the person. In our community with college aged students, depression and anxiety would be responses because of changes, worries for the future and that is an understandable way to respond. Data supports that.”
Senior social work major, Amanda Lippner, of Kankakee, said she got encouraged to help spread mental health awareness by being a member of Eta Sigma Gamma and she said she wanted to help promote tips that can coincide with a stress-free semester.
“I would like to help promote ways to prevent burnout. I am an advocate for self-care and an overall stress-free semester, and I know that’s easier said than done,” Lippner said. “We have a lot of skills in the social work department that I feel will be useful tools in regards to mental health.”
Thompson-Gibson said it is important for people who are dealing with mental health issues to have someone who supports them, and that loved ones need to play that role in any way they can.
“Lend a listening ear and validate their experiences. If you are talking with somebody, know your limit and understand you do not have to take on the full responsibility,” Thompson-Gibson said. “Offer resources, be supportive and refer them to a professional that can help. It can be encouraging because a lot of people need additional support. There are also online training opportunities to help someone in distress and how to handle conversations.”
Senior public health major Amanda Lotter, of Edwardsville said she feels it is important to have open conversations with your friends and family about how you feel mentally.
“Telling people how you feel is important because it keeps people aware of how you feel mentally,” Lotter said. “It shows people you are open to them and trust them.”
Although mental health is being discussed more in our society than previously before, Thompson-Gibson said there are steps that still need to be taken before the negative stigma of mental health is taken away. In the meantime, she said all we can do is continue the dialogue and listen when we need to.
“I think [there is] a shame and stigma with being vulnerable and people would rather keep it to themselves,” Thompson-Gibson said. “But what we find is when people reach out, it doesn’t feel as big, you don’t feel alone and you feel more open.”
Lippner said she has multiple things that she likes to do in regards to keeping her mental health in shape.
“We have a mentor that we have to check in with a few times and I feel it is really necessary,” Lippner said. “It is more than an academic advisor because it is on a more personal level. I also like to walk my dogs everyday, I like to be outside, I have a few breaks throughout the day so I like to hammock on campus.”
Lotter said she tries to make time for herself as well as keep positive people around her to ensure that her mental health remains healthy.
“I try to take walks occasionally and surround myself with good people,” Lotter said. “I try to take care of myself as much as possible.”
Even though opening up about mental issues may be hard, Lippner said it is important to continue to keep your family and friends close because they just might be able to assist you.
“I think it is important to be honest because you don’t know how [people] can help you or the resources they can provide you with,” Lippner said. “I try to talk to my mom on the phone a lot and be connected with family and friends. Keeping those people close shows that you don’t have to be alone.”
Friends and families might not be professionals on the topic of mental health issues, Lotter said it is important to just listen to friends or family who might be suffering from mental health problems.
“I would say be there for them and listen to them,” Lotter said. “Ask them what you can do to help them and point them in the direction of resources.”
Students can visit SIUE Counseling Services in the Student Success Center in Room 0220 or contact them at 650-5839 to schedule an appointment.