Opinion: Mental health days must be instilled in IWU calendar

By Farah Bassyouni Apr 15, 2022
Credit: Liam Killian
Credit: Liam Killian

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the mental well-being of students has become a hot topic after depression and anxiety rates have skyrocketed. After being subjected to online learning and sacrificing many of the milestones of being a young adult, it’s no question why mental health has become a priority. 

Countless students have suffered as a result of this life change. Within the past few years, there has been a movement across college campuses to start a larger conversation around the mental health and wellness of students. Though the same conversation has made its way to our campus, it has not necessarily been supported in the same way that students would like to see.

Credit: Liam Killian

Student Senate has made great strides in bringing focus to the mental health of students on our campus. Mental Health Mondays, where the Student Senate Instagram features various students’ accounts on how they handle their mental health, have become a resource for students to take a step back and look at how they are doing. The campus population has taken control of the narrative of mental health, and students as well as RSOs have been doing the major work to support students’ mental health. Counseling services have also increased their staffing to support the need by students to reach out. Without students and counseling services, IWU would likely have little resources for students regarding their mental health. 

One of the major desires of the student body is having mental health days throughout the school year. Students oftentimes find themselves running into a burnout at a full sprint, struggling to get through the semester. 

Returning to the normal class schedule after succumbing to online learning in the pandemic has been an immense struggle for many students. Spring break and winter break help to alleviate some of this stress, but education has been turned on its head since COVID came around. The transition back to a “normal” school year has put a tremendous amount of strain on students. Without small breaks throughout the semester, it is becoming harder for many to find the strength to finish out the school year. 

Besides the rare three day weekend and the scheduled winter and spring breaks, only having the weekend is often not enough time for students to mentally reset for the following week. Providing a mental health day here and there will give students enough room to breathe during their busy academic schedules. No student wants to run out of time for an assignment or feel as if they have to push aside their own mental well-being for a grade. 

By implementing more mental health days, students who are struggling may find themselves relieved by the scheduled breaks. Not only this, but explicitly referring to the free days as mental health days will help to alleviate the stigma that many college students find themselves approaching mental health with, giving them more confidence to reach out when they need help or to take time for themselves. This would also be a great way for faculty and staff to get more closely involved with the mental wellbeing of students. 

As the semester draws to a close in the coming weeks, I am sure that a large number of students are feeling drained and uninspired. If the school were to implement mental health days throughout the academic year, this burnout could be avoided and students would finally have some extra time to start treating their mental health as a priority.

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