Absences for Mental Health

Just as students are allowed to take time to recover from physical illness, they should be able to take a day off for mental health reasons, too.

College students are especially prone to mental illness because of pressures from school, work, jobs, family life and relationships. One in four people between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health.

Missing class because of a mental illness should be more accepted because it affects people all around us.

If students think they need to miss class because of mental health concerns, they should talk to their professor in a one-on-one setting.

California Lutheran University psychology professor Marylie Gerson said some of her classes do not require attendance, but on an exam day she needs documentation to verify the absence.

“I would prefer that I first have a chance to work with the student and see if I can find ways that maybe they could still attend class even though they’re struggling with anxiety, or find ways to substitute the class,” Gerson said.

It is easier said than done, but seeking help will allow someone to learn how to cope with mental illness and allow professors to better understand.

“I’m sure that some of them would accommodate mental health issues, you know, by posting PowerPoint slides maybe if they don’t usually,” said Jessica Gott, psychology student and co-president of the Cal Lutheran psychology club.

It is important, though, to realize that some students may not feel comfortable disclosing that information to a professor.

“If a student has a diagnosed mental illness, it makes sense to go through DSS (Disability Support Services),” Director of Counseling Services and licensed psychologist Ginny Maril said in an email interview. “It is up to the student to decide if they want to disclose that diagnosis to their professors.”

Like with physical illness, professors may want an official note excusing them from class, but students should not be required to do this. It puts them in an uncomfortable situation because of stigma surrounding mental illness.

Leanna Kontos