Mental health is something so often overlooked in the academic environment. Particularly in the collegiate setting, students often experience overwhelming stress, anxiety and even depressive symptoms due to school related issues. On the other hand, students who are diagnosed with those same conditions may experience an increase in their symptoms due to the academic environment.
I think it’s important for schools to take into account mental health when counting class absences as excused or unexcused. We can all speak from experience: skipping class isn’t beneficial in any way. Even if you do something you wanted to do during that class time, you come back even more behind and confused than you probably were before.
Mental health issues amplifies these effects and creates a vicious cycle. Needing to take a day off for mental health reasons – because of your academic load – leads to you getting further behind in your class, which makes you more anxious to catch up and makes your to-do list double in length in order to catch up and then leads right back to needing more mental health days.
Another aspect to consider is the students’ personal life. Of course school can be stressful and can certainly be enough to bog you down, but there’s also almost always something else going on in the students social life to worsen these negative feelings. So while it may look like there isn’t much going on academically, that’s no permission to then discredit those feelings of anxiety and stress.
There are some professors that I’ve had over the years that do allow for mental health days, but most do not. I believe that this is partially due to people abusing the taboo subject of mental health as an excuse not to come to class when they’re fully capable of attending. Those students that do choose to abuse those privileges in this way are sick. By using mental health days as a joke or an easy excused absence, you ruin the legitimacy of those days for students who actually need them.
From past experience, if you miss a day of class for these reasons, reach out to your professors or classmates. I have yet to encounter someone, student or staff, who isn’t willing to help me catch up or share notes with me from the class I missed. It’s certainly easier said than done to be honest with professors or fellow students about your mental health status, push yourself to take a leap of faith and don’t be afraid to take time for yourself.
Something else important that I’ve learned since I’ve been at Wittenberg is that it’s okay to be selfish sometimes. If going to class or doing homework until midnight means sacrificing your mental health then don’t do it. You’ve struggled through a lot so it’s okay to do something for yourself every once and awhile.