Wayne State University is asking students to prioritize their health on wellbeing on Thursday as the university recognizes the second Mental Health Day of the academic year.
WSU’s previous Mental Health Day was held on Oct. 30, 2020 during the fall semester, due to stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although WSU has officially recognized mental health day, it is not mandatory for faculty to cancel classes.
“The purpose of this day is to give members of our campus community the opportunity to connect with each other, discover available resources to support their health and well-being and take some much-needed time to prioritize their own self-care,” President M. Roy Wilson said in a Feb. 10 email to the campus community.
Junior computer science major Sanya Sahela believes there should be more than one mental health day offered per semester, she said in a Feb. 16 email to The South End.
“I think giving the professors the option to choose whether they want to or not kind of takes away the whole point. And I think mental health day should be looked at more as like checkpoints during the semester so there should be more spread out,” Sahela said.
In the Office of the Provost’s Feb. 9 email to the campus community, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Laurie Lauzon Clabo said faculty are urged to observe mental health day in some capacity but the choice ultimately is the professor’s alone.
“If it is not possible to cancel class, an alternative way to participate in mental health day might be for faculty members to lead a brief discussion with their students about managing classes and daily life during the pandemic,” Clabo said in the email.
Sahela said the one class she has on mental health day is still being held, however her professor is allowing students to watch the lecture asynchronously.
“I don’t think one day is enough for mental health,” Sahela said. “The university should definitely do more and I don’t mean give more days off or anything. To me, when you just give your students a day off, if the professor is up for it, that just shows they’re taking an easy way out just to make it seem like they care.”
Counseling and Psychological Services has not been as helpful or available as professors think, Sahela said.
“The second something happens or a student shows mental health concerns, CAPS is the first thing that the professor points towards when in reality, there’s usually a long waitlist to even get ‘help’,” Sahela said.
The CAPS waitlist is only for individual counseling services, Director Jeffrey Kuentzel said in a Feb. 17 email to The South End. Currently, the waitlist is three weeks or less, but the average for the academic year has been seven days.
There are more immediate options available to students who might need to talk to someone, Kuentzel said. These services include the initial consultation with a CAPS employee and a crisis intervention line available 24/7.
“Let's Talk, a drop-in session with a counselor, is another great resource. Let's Talk is offered all day on Mental Health Day, and typically there are Let's Talk sessions almost every day. So a student who wants to talk to a CAPS counselor has several immediate options,” he said.
Students can also contact the Crisis Text line at (741-741) for immediate help, Kuentzel said.
First-year transfer computer technology major Kamren Deddeh said his professors this semester and last semester have all canceled classes for mental health day.
“Overall mental health day seems like a good thing for some students. Personally, I am not overwhelmed with online teaching methods and am doing fine, but I imagine some students really need this day,” Deddeh said. “As mental health has recently been a serious thing, we should acknowledge this as a day for not only students, but professors included. People really just need a day to wind down and relax.”
Multiple “interactive resources and activities” are being provided to students to help them stay connected and practice self-care, Wilson said. Employees are encouraged to take advantage of the Employee Assistance Program for free.
More information on Mental Health Day can be found here.
Arben Gacaferi is a correspondent for The South End. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Cover art created by Dori Gross, graphic designer for The South End. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.