Friday, October 22, 2021
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Opinion: Normalize Mental Health Days in College

After COVID-19 made waves in March 2020, we were forced to adhere to the new normal. Mandatory masks and social distancing have become a part of our everyday lives. 

While the physical aspect of the coronavirus has been covered thoroughly, the aspect of the mental and emotional distress that comes hand in hand with it needs to be discussed more.  

Zoom classes made their full debut last fall. Many universities went remote to slow the spread of the virus. This spring semester, as online classes are still the norm for most, students have been expected to go 16 straight weeks online with a sorry 4-day spring break in between. Due to updated attendance policies on Zoom, we cannot afford to take any mental health days or sick days due to fear our grades will suffer or we will be dropped from the class for insufficient attendance.  

College students have experienced the brunt of COVID and somehow have received the least support. Most of us who are dependents have not qualified for the stimulus. There is little financial relief, with the quality of education decreasing drastically while tuition remains the same. That is just the tip of the iceberg. 

There are no sick days, mental or physical, and that is detrimental to students. Instead of professors being understanding in these uncertain circumstances we are all facing, they’ve chosen to turn a blind eye. 

Attendance on Zoom is mandatory and even so much as being late by 10 minutes can be an absence for some students. Students are juggling jobs, schoolwork, classes they have to attend weekly, as well as emotional and physical distress from COVID. 

UMKC senior Shelby Stokes says that the burden of school has caused burnout. 

“I work a part time job already. Every day I don’t spend at work I’m looking at a screen for 4-5 hours watching professor’s ramble. It is exhausting,” Stokes said. “I understand attendance is important but why is that all that’s important? My mental health is on the back burner but as long as I do my work and show up, I guess it doesn’t matter.” 

The lack of empathy throughout this pandemic from universities has been an atrocity to see. Students are expected to continue things like they are normal while the world around them is falling apart at the seams. Some students are dealing with sick family members or some who may have passed away from the virus. Some students may even be sick themselves. 

Each university should treat the mental effects of COVID like they do the physical. Mental health days should be incorporated into student’s schedules. Students are facing burnout and day by day it is getting worse. We are looking at a computer screen for hours a day with little to no human interaction with no days off. It is exhausting and draining to say the least. Week by week more students are losing their will to continue. This needs to change. 

tmc82h@mail.umkc.edu

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