With finals just around the corner, most students are feeling the pressure of performing well on exams. However, this stress affects everyone in different ways. Some people seem to power through it with no problem, but for other people, the stress becomes an unbearable burden. This doesn’t make those students who have trouble battling stress weaker or less capable than their seemingly unflappable classmates—everyone reacts to high-stress situations differently and everyone has different needs when it comes to self-care. Unfortunately, while it is fairly easy to acquire a dean’s notice when suffering from a physical illness, the same can’t exactly be said when one requires a mental health day.
Bates’ Health Center has wonderful resources for those struggling with symptoms of depression or other emotional distress, including counseling and a sun lamp for those dealing with seasonal affective disorder. If you were going through a crisis or even a great deal of stress, the Health Center would be more than happy to give you the tools to discuss these issues with your professor. But let’s say you wake up one morning and the reality of how much work you have to do dawns on you, or you are struggling with problems with friends or family, and the idea of going to class, let alone getting out of bed, feels like an impossible feat—what should you do then? We all feel like this sometimes. No one is immune to this situation. You could go to the health center, but appointments to meet with counselors sometimes have waiting periods of over a week, and you need rest right now. In my opinion, being ‘brave’ and going to class can be detrimental to your emotional health at this point. ‘Powering through’ isn’t giving your body and mind the rest they need. Maybe you just need a day off—maybe even just half a day. Would you feel comfortable emailing your professor and telling them you need a mental health day?
Many professors list in their syllabus that students are allowed one or two unexcused absences before it impacts their grade. Some professors allow none. I think that Bates should have a policy that easily gives students a pathway to communicate with professors if they need to take a pause in order to rejuvenate their mental health. Our school’s mentality is so often centered on being ‘strong,’ taking on huge loads of work, and pulling all-nighters, but this can easily take a toll on our student body, especially when there is so much pressure to ‘keep up’ with everyone else. A policy that encourages students to understand their emotional needs would make our campus safer by emboldening students to take control of their own mental health.
Most professors would probably be very understanding if you spoke with them about any struggles you are having in your personal life or dealing with regarding your course workload, but initiating this conversation when you are already overwhelmed and not sure how they will react can be terrifying. Having an official school statement about how these situations should be addressed would make students much more willing to speak up when they feel they cannot safely or healthily attend class without overexerting themselves emotionally.