PEPAH provides fun awareness to mental health at Fresh Check Day

Josh McCormack
Arts & Features Writer
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Photo by Josh McCormack                              UNCA student organizations attempt to de stress students with fun craft events for Fresh Check Day

Student organizations all across the UNC Asheville campus gathered for Fresh Check Day to promote the importance of mental health to college students.
Fresh Check Day on Oct. 22 brought students together in Highsmith Student Union to engage in fun activities that both entertained and called attention to mental health options on the UNCA campus. The  event was sponsored by Peers Educating Peers and Advancing Health or PEPAH.
“We work with a lot of students’ mental health, emotional health and even physical
health,” UNCA senior and PEPAH intern Mahalya Benjamin said. “It  provides a lot of healthy options for students who might be going through a lot in their day to day student life.”
All of the student organizations that attended Fresh Check Day had a table to promote their brand and the ways they bring mental health to the forefront of the discussion, along with fun activities for the visitors.
PEPAH’s table was a mandatory stop for any visitor who wanted to be entered into a raffle. 
“Our table today is entitled 9 out of 10 and it is based on the statistic that out of 10 students on a college campus, one of them will contemplate suicide,” Benjamin explained. “While that is a saddening statistic, our table was full of positive resources that included a sheet for the best ways friends can talk to someone they care for who might be in a mental health crisis.”
PEPAH intern and UNCA junior Tiffany Bailey helped Benjamin promote their 9 out of 10 table saying it helped put the mental health crisis on college campuses in more understandable terms for your average student or faculty member.
Bailey also went on to explain the importance of Fresh Check Day itself.
“The Health and Counseling Center as well as PEPAH interns and pretty much everyone else on campus should be fully aware that mental health is important not only to our campus but every campus. So we want to be sure that we’re meeting students’ needs and we understand that it’s hard with time management and money to just meet everyone’s needs,” Bailey said. “So little things like Fresh Check Day can really help by  reaching out to as many people as possible.”
One of the many tables providing activities for students was the Sociology and Anthropology Club. The club’s president Alayna Graves provided students with a large tapestry of paper in which they were able to draw whatever put them at ease. With flowers, sunshine and even puppies drawn all across the table, the art brought a smile to every visitor.
“We’re trying to promote the fact that art and creativity are really good ways to alleviate stress, anxiety and other elements of mental illness,” Graves said. “It’s just a relaxing thing to put your feelings on paper and get away from the things that wind up stressing you out.”
Graves herself had positive words to say about the work that went into Fresh Check Day.
“This has been a really great experience,” Graves said. “It’s a place where everyone can collectively recognize that mental illness is not this thing that needs to be hidden or something you have to pretend you don’t suffer from. We’re all in college, we’re all working really hard and we all have stress. So I think it’s very important for students to come to something like this and see that you’re not alone and have an outlet to talk about it with someone.”
Benjamin said she was incredibly happy to see such a large turnout, even after the event was meant to have taken place in an alternate outside location.
“The amount of people showing up today has been phenomenal,” Benjamin said. “We were supposed to have it out on the quad, but once it started raining we were forced in here, but it seemed to work out pretty well. We got a whole lot of people at our table.”
Benjamin also shared a brief explanation of what’s to come for PEPAH over the remainder of the school year.
“We have so many events we’re planning,” Benjamin said. “We have so many  tabling events coming up throughout the rest of the semester. We like to do a lot of events that raise awareness for self care and bringing awareness to sexual health. We also provide relaxation for Reading Day before exams come up. There’s just a lot to look forward to and I’m glad we were able to share our mission with people at this event.”