Nearly 500 students visited the fall 2015 Division of Student Life Wellness Fair held earlier this month in the Al ‘51 and Barrie Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center at MIT. “We hope students walked away with at least one new strategy for dealing with stress at MIT,” said Stephanie Smith, associate director of recreation, programs, and fitness for the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER).
Fair attendees were encouraged to meet students and staff members who provide wellness resources on campus by collecting stamps on a “Wellness Passport” from tables and stations throughout the fair.
According to Smith, the students really seemed to enjoy the massages, therapy dogs, learning about campus support services, and the healthy snacks provided by Bon Appétit and LaVerde’s Market. Many students also took time to participate in alcohol screening, a brief, anonymous screening for alcohol problems; information on the health consequences of at-risk drinking; and the opportunity to talk to a health professional about concerns and referral to further support — an activity that proved to be so popular that it maintained a waitlist through most of the event. Post-event assessments were conducted and will be analyzed to help event organizers understand what students took away from the event.
The community-wide event was cosponsored by the Division of Student Life and the MindHandHeart Initiative, and supported by many different groups, organizations, and offices across campus. “This truly was a divisional effort and something that really gave students an opportunity to pause, reflect, and learn something new,” said Julie Rothhaar-Sanders, assistant dean for residential life programs and First-Year Experience.
The MindHandHeart Initiative, which was announced on Sept. 2 by Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart and MIT Medical Director William Kettyle, aims to help members of the MIT community feel more comfortable asking for help when they need it, and to build a healthier, stronger community.
MindHandHeart also offered four QPR trainings on the day of the Wellness Fair. QPR stands for "question, persuade, and refer," three steps that can help save a life from suicide.
“QPR training is so important because suicide is the most preventable cause of death,” said Ariella Yosafat, student chair of the MindHandHeart Initiative’s mental health and substance abuse services working group. “If you can give someone hope and keep them hanging on just a little bit longer, you have likely saved their life.”
Yosafat added, “most people who have a suicide attempt and survive do not go on to complete suicide. This is also what I personally want people to take away from the [trainings] — that listening to someone, being there for them during a time of crisis, and convincing them to get help is enough to save a life."
Zan Barry, senior program manager with MIT Community Wellness and one of the QPR trainers, has this advice for all community members: “Never worry alone. If you are concerned about someone you know but aren’t sure how to approach them, talk to a mental health professional, a housemaster, a GRT, or anyone who might be helpful in creating a network of support.”
There will be QPR training sessions scheduled throughout 2016. Community members who are interested in learning more can email MIT Community Wellness (with the subject line "QPR") to receive updates on the training schedule.