Wayne State has decided not to offer a mental health day this semester.
Dean of Students David Strauss said last year’s collective strain from online classes, COVID-19 concerns and the 2020 elections warranted a mental health day. Now that WSU has moved away from the virtual learning format, students can seek assistance on campus.
“We’re back in person, offices are open, people are here, resources are available, activities are taking place, there is the vaccine mandate… so we are in a place where we’re here to support students,” he said. “Mental health is definitely an issue, definitely a concern, but we’re also open and here to help.”
Some faculty, like Classical Ballet II and III instructor Jessica Gabriellé Thomas, decided to give their students a mental health day despite the lack of an official designation.
“(A)s a teacher, I was like ‘you know what, I’m just going to make sure that we have that this year, that we keep that going’ because I feel like we forget that we’re still in so many ways still in a pandemic or coming out of a pandemic,” she said.
Thomas said she saw an obvious change in students’ mental health before the COVID-19 pandemic compared to now.
“I found myself using a lot of my mental health resources to help students more now than I ever had to before the pandemic, which is why I think that it’s also important for professors and educators to also have at least resources or training in mental health awareness and mental health aid,” Thomas said.
Strauss said rather than having a single day dedicated to mental health, students can reach out to instructors with any difficulties they may have throughout the semester.
“(M)y belief, is that one day will not change an issue. One day will not change a problem,” he said. “What we need to do, and what we are doing, is that everything we do is focused on student wellness, and we’re all here to help.”
Cydney Collins, a sophomore biomedical engineering major, said she hasn’t seen that focus.
“I don’t think they’ve really done anything,” she said. “We’ve just been having our classes.”
Collins said a day off from classes would help her mental health.
“(The lack of a mental health day is) terrible because it’s been so stressful,” she said. “I’ve been having a lot of work back-to-back. I just need a break, honestly.”
Collins had an instructor declare their own mental health day, she said.
Strauss said individual instructors have the right to give their students that time off.
“That’s certainly their prerogative and certainly that would be definitely supported…” Strauss said. “In no way was it mandated, but certainly (it) is supported.”
Thomas said she admired WSU for recognizing the collective strain on the campus community and providing a day off last year. However, being back in-person does not negate the need for a mental health day this semester.
“I think we forgoed that because we’re like, ‘okay, we’re coming out of the pandemic, and we need to get back to this normal,’ but it’s never going to be normal,” Thomas said. “I don’t want to go back to what was normal. What was normal was two cups of coffee and running yourself into the ground, and I don’t think that’s the best version of you that you can give to people.”
Kate Vaughn is the breaking news correspondent for The South End. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover photo by Hannah Sexton, graphic designer for The South End. She can be reached at email@example.com.