Before I begin, my apologies for my recent absenteeism from the blogosphere. My summer job reigning in little children beneath the humid Connecticut sun fried my brain, evaporating all creative juices.
My first ever post for Uncommon Discussion , “Unafraid to Feel,” talked about my ex-boyfriend, Jordan’s suicide and the rampant emotional and mental health difficulty experienced by college students, freshmen specifically. Since Jordan’s death, his parents have established a foundation, The Jordan Matthew Porco Foundation. Its mission is to “honor Jordan’s 18-year life and assist other young adults in coping with the stresses of college life.”
A couple nights ago, I met Jordan’s mom for dinner. She talked to me about the foundation’s mission and how crucial it is that mental health services be readily accessible for college students. Even at schools like BU, where our behavioral medicine services are a mere call away, many students are too afraid to make the call. Shame, guilt and embarrassment push students further into a corner, and their feelings deeper into an emotional abyss. Denying feelings of anxiety, stress, and sorrow will not cause them to disband. Far from it – suppressing emotions in lieu of addressing them only adds fuel to the flame.
Organizations like BU’s chapter of “Active Minds” have a similar mission to the Porco family’s foundation. Active Minds takes aim at the taboo air surrounding mental health. You may remember the organization’s Post Secret project this past spring which provided an entertaining albeit eye-opening glimpse into the anonymous minds and hearts of our classmates.
Our school’s Women’s Resource Center is a warm, welcoming (hello, comfy couches!) spot for the tackling of such diverse topics as sexuality, women’s issues, and the importance of meeting one’s emotional needs to ensure mental health and stability.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst college students. About 1,100 students will commit suicide on campus this year. The statistics are alarmingly high. However, more important than dwelling on suicide prevention is attacking the causes of the act. Mental health problems amongst college students stem from a number of areas: low self-esteem, eating disorders, sexual assault/rape victimization, academic and financial pressures, and a litany of other causes. That students enter their college experience, the “best four years of our lives,” equipped with the tools and resources necessary to combat these stressors is crucial.
The Jordan Matthew Porco Foundation is spearheading a national “Fresh Check Day” at several college campuses throughout the country. On a Fresh Check Day, college freshmen will be invited to listen to speakers, hear a live band, engage in relevant activities, and learn about their school’s resources for mental health. The foundation’s pilot Fresh Check Day will take place this fall at Jordan’s school, St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, and the band Barefoot Truth will perform.
In “Unafraid to Feel,” I discussed the importance of being emotionally open with friends, telling those close to us what’s going on behind our calm, cool, and collected facades. Sometimes we think the weight of our problems is too burdensome to share with peers. Other times, being away from our parents, we crave “adult” wisdom and advice. Still other times, our situation grows too dire to simply “talk out” and the help we seek must be immediate and informed. On these occasions, we need to lean on the resources established for us and be confident that somebody, in fact many people out there do really, really care about us. At BU, this means calling behavioral medicine and making an appointment, getting in touch with a student health ambassador, joining a behavioral medicine group, or taking part in a workshop. Whatever route you take to keep yourself healthy: seek it. Never in a million years would I have predicted Jordan’s fate. He was goofy, happy-go-lucky and full of smiles. His story is empirical proof that it can happen to truly anyone.