Knox Celebrates Self-Care, Decreases Stigma, and Increases Awareness during Mental Health Fair
November 20, 2018
by Tricia Duke '19
This year marked Knox’s second annual “Fresh Check Day,” a fair that aims to raise awareness about mental health resources.
Students, faculty, and staff volunteers woke up early on a Thursday morning to lug plastic tables and colorful games out to the lawn behind Alumni Hall. Old Main’s shadow pulled back to reveal the network of sidewalks lined with booths. While some students painted tiles and learned about creative expression, others joined LGBTQA organization Common Ground in writing down things they loved about themselves. Still others learned about alcohol abuse by donning vision-distorting “beer goggles” and attempting to navigate a simple obstacle course.
Assistant Director of Knox Counseling Services Megan Downs, LPC, said that the event is valuable in that it teaches students how to educate and support each other.
“A very important aspect of this program is peer-to-peer messaging. This decreases the stigma surrounding mental health, and lets students know that they have allies,” Downs said. She noted that there are many ways of informing students about available services, but social support helps people feel more willing to actually seek that help.
Downs considered the event a major success on that front. The number of students who volunteered revealed a tremendous amount of mental health allies on campus. “Multiple student organizations were actively involved in planning and eager to help,” she said.
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Each student organization brought its own take on supporting mental health, furthering the idea that a student could find support not only in a counselor’s office but in each part of a student’s everyday life.
Danarria Bobo '20, social chair of the Knox chapter of Allied Blacks for Liberty and Equality (A.B.L.E.), volunteered to help with an activity that brought to light stigmas specific to people of color. Walking by the booth, students had the opportunity to dig a slip of paper out of a sandbox, read it aloud, and discuss with their peers why the stigma was untrue.
“I have a lot of family members who’ve dealt with mental health,” Bobo said when asked why the event mattered to her. “I think it’s important that people understand that people of color do deal with mental health, even if our families don’t like to talk about it.” She said that A.B.L.E. makes an effort to regularly talk about issues surrounding mental health and remind their members that they have support.
Joey Peterson '20, project manager for the Knox Improv Club, was helping run a booth about how creative expression can help people care for themselves and manage stress. The booth aimed to give people permission to slow down and do something enjoyable, which Peterson said the Improv Club aims to do at all times.
“Laughter heals. It’s healed me. I just want to spread that,” he said. Peterson said that Fresh Check Day represented an opportunity for him to reach out to people who might now be in the place he used to be: scared and looking for help. He expressed gratitude to Knox Counseling Services for the event and their personable support.
“The people at Counseling Services are great at helping the people who need it most. They definitely helped me,” Peterson said.
Downs is hopeful that the fair will have a lasting effect. The paper chain of self-love, the mural of painted tiles, and other mental health-affirming creations made during the fair will be visible in various places on campus to remind students of their peers’ support.