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During World War II, young Americans voluntarily went overseas to run toward bullets. Might the same occur today? To assuredly say “yes” would be difficult. Adversity has, in a word, evolved. Apropos of projectiles, a Massachusetts college is trying to help enrollees brave the bullets of youth.
Modern technology has made living easier; cultural change has sanded the corners of life. And as people find milder external challenges, they endeavor a closer look within; mental health awareness has surged.
With that fervent focus comes increased professional inspection. How is the future faring? According to the American Psychological Association, not well:
[Gen Z] is…significantly more likely (27 percent) than other generations — including millennials (15 percent) and Gen Xers (13 percent) — to report their mental health as fair or poor, [the 2019 APA Stress in America survey] found. They are also more likely (37 percent), along with millennials (35 percent), to report they have received treatment or therapy from a mental health professional, compared with 26 percent of Gen Xers, 22 percent of baby boomers and 15 percent of older adults.
And from the Pew Research Center (PRC):
The total number of teenagers who recently experienced depression increased 59 percent between 2007 and 2017. The rate of growth was faster for teen girls (66 percent) than for boys (44 percent).
Also per PRC:
[S]even-in-ten teens today see [anxiety and depression] as major problems among their peers. Concern about mental health cuts across gender, racial and socio-economic lines, with roughly equal shares of teens across demographic groups saying it is a significant issue in their community.
Such stats might explain why Northeastern University hosts a mental health club. In 2021, “Active Minds” petitioned the school to provide students with new excused absences.
The 2021 proposal pleaded on behalf of nonwhites:
Having a way for students to indirectly communicate with professors that they need a Wellness Day eliminates the stress and anxiety that students face when directly notifying professors that they are unable to come to class due to their mental health, which is particularly an issue for students of color.
All this being said, we know that the mental well-being of students is a priority for universities. An April 2021 survey by the American Council on Education found 73 percent of university presidents ranked student mental health as their most pressing issue. The implementation of permanent mental health days or “Wellness Days” is the first step to addressing this issue and bettering student life across Boston campuses.
The college has capitulated.
Student mental health, as well as general wellbeing, is a priority for Northeastern. Wellness Days can and should be used when a student wishes to be absent from a day of classes, whether it’s due to mental health, emotional wellbeing, physical illness, or personal circumstances. Taking a day to perform some self-care or seek assistance from available resources will allow students to return to class with renewed purpose.
The program seeks to “provide relief” as follows:
- Allow students an opportunity to be absent from a day of classes for any reason.
- Offer a method for indirectly notifying multiple course instructors of an excused absence while maintaining privacy and reducing the stress of direct notifications.
- Provide an in-the-moment reminder of available resources and how to contact them.
It’s a softer, gentler era:
Will Northeastern University’s mental health days help serve the college cause? Will it better prepare adolescents for adulthood? That remains to be seen. For now, if someone is unprepared for a test, they might find a healthy way out; exams, of course, are well-known triggers of stress and anxiety — especially if the student hasn’t studied.
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