Staff Opinion: The University should support and protect mental health days

By Natalie Nygren | February 5, 2019 10:30am
Natalie Nygren thinks UP needs to do more to protect the mental health of students.
Media Credit: Annika Gordon / The Beacon

Have you ever had a day where you felt like your brain would literally explode if you had to read another page of textbook or do another homework problem? You’re not alone. Have you ever taken a class where your professor is not so generous on excusing absences? You’re not alone there, either. 

This is why UP should support mental health days and protect them in University Policies — yes, that long section of all your syllabi that your prof probably skipped over on the first day of class. 

To give UP some credit, there are some incredibly accessible resources on campus for mental health, like 24/7 counseling with ProtoCall and a variety of staff counselors available to us for free. Additionally, they add a section with these resources in the University Policy section of our syllabi, so students are always reminded of their options in a time of need. 

However, something that is incredibly underestimated by faculty and the administration is the power of a simple mental health day. Just like you would stay home, rest and drink lots of water if your body gets sick, it’s sometimes important to sleep, relax and give your brain time to recover, too. 

Being in college might be one of the most stressful times of a person’s life. You are not only juggling classes, homework, studying, part time jobs and extracurriculars, but you probably also should be sleeping 8 hours per night, having three healthy meals every day and finding time to exercise. We would need a solid 36 hours every day to accomplish each of those things. So, for college students, prioritization becomes a survival method. 

Jam-packing our days is enough to stress us out, which could have any number of negative effects on a person. Stress can be helped with extra sleep, breaks from work and treating yo’self on occasion (queue Parks and Rec references). Mental health days are the best way to destress, in my opinion. 

Mental health days can be incredibly beneficial to you and might even make you more productive in the long term, but you don’t want to use this as an excuse to miss class on the regular. Taking care of yourself is important all the time, but it’s sometimes okay to give yourself a full day if you feel like you really need it.

If occasional mental health days only have positive effects on you and your well being, why doesn’t the university protect them or even advocate for them? While I have had a good share of professors who allow a couple of absences without penalty, a few of my profs will dock grades with unexcused absences, even the first one or two. 

The university should mandate students be given at least one or two mental health days free of penalty, regardless of the prof’s attendance policy. Not only would the students here at UP become happier and healthier, they might be more susceptible to learning and do better in their classes. Win-win as far as I’m concerned. 

Natalie Nygren is the community engagement editor at The Beacon. She can be reached at