Indiana Daily Student

OPINION: Professors should add mental health days into their attendance policies

<p>Students walk Aug. 30, 2021, in front of Showalter Fountain.</p>

Students walk Aug. 30, 2021, in front of Showalter Fountain.

College is stressful. Almost everyone needs a day to recharge from the constant assignments, exam preparation and essay writing required in classes.

Last year, IU gave students three wellness days for the spring semester to recharge because students did not have normal breaks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Because regular breaks returned this year, we don’t need campus-wide wellness days again, but students should be able to use three absences per class per semester to monitor their well-being and mental health.

We are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many people, especially children and adolescents, have experienced increased symptoms of clinical depression and generalized anxiety. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 12.9% of the youth and adolescent global population experienced depression and 11.6% experienced anxiety, according to JAMA Pediatrics. According to a collection of studies from 2021, 25% of children and adolescents experience depression symptoms and 20% experience anxiety symptoms. 

Our generation was already struggling with abnormal rates of mental health issues before COVID-19. As a generation, we have normalized struggling with mental health issues and spread the message that it is okay to not be okay sometimes. This is especially true with all the exciting but stressful life changes that college students experience.

Professors should try to alleviate students’ mental health struggles and give them the option to miss a few classes per semester in order to do what is best for them. 

All students would benefit from this attendance policy. Those who are diagnosed with a disorder or are developing a disorder would be able to recognize when they are experiencing severe symptoms and choose to take a day to collect themselves so they can perform better in future. 

People experience different symptoms of depression and anxiety, so this would help people decide what is in their best interest. Only the person experiencing their disorder can know what is best for them because symptoms should not be compared to another person’s. 

Even people who do not have a mental health disorder still experience the stressors of college. It has been normalized for college students to pull all-nighters to write essays, work on assignments and study for exams. While some students may procrastinate on their work, there are also students who have no other option because of extracurricular activities, having a part-time job or having a heavy class load.

Betsy Barre, the executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Wake Forest University, said it is possible that assignment workload has increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though there are more assignments, there are still only 24 hours in a day. Some students sacrifice sleep to stay caught up. 

There should be a protocol for students to make up classwork over an extended amount of time. If students have to make up classwork in a short period of time, then this causes more stress. This protocol would ensure missing a class occasionally is actually beneficial and not counterproductive for students. 

Students could also come to professors' office hours to help get caught up. This would be more helpful to the student because of the individualization to meet the specific students’ needs. 

College has its challenges for everyone, and the option of mental health days may help alleviate some of those stressors so students can ultimately succeed. 

Cassie Golden (she/her) is a sophomore studying psychology and counseling. She is involved in the Marching Hundred, Marching Hundred Student Organization and psychology club.

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