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Editorial: Professors, pay attention to your students’ mental health

November 14, 2019
<p>Business sophomore Lily Alexander poses for a picture of her pin at The Rock on March 19, 2018. (Charles Benoit | State News)</p>

Business sophomore Lily Alexander poses for a picture of her pin at The Rock on March 19, 2018. (Charles Benoit | State News)

Photo by Charles Benoit | The State News

As we celebrate yet another week that aims to bring awareness to the issue of mental health, we should take into consideration how prevalent that issue is in society and on college campuses. This Mental Health Awareness Week, there should be dialogue surrounding how many of our peers deal with mental health issues on a daily basis, how it affects their lives and how it impacts their academic performance.

The stigma associated with seeking help for mental health problems has improved in recent years, but it’s still present. And mental illnesses beyond anxiety and depression are still taboo.

We think it’s a good thing that people are more open to conversations surrounding mental health. But there are still improvements to be made, especially in the classroom and other educational environments.

As students, we’re bound to go through things that prevent us from performing at our best. We might be too afraid to reach out to our professors for help during these times. Or we might end up reaching out to our professors only to have our struggles brushed off and be turned away. Either situation hurts.

Students don’t want to perform poorly in class. We aren’t paying thousands of dollars and dedicating hundreds of hours in an attempt to get a degree just to fail. 

According to CollegeStats, 80% of college students feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities as students, while 50% of college students have rated their mental health as below average or poor. Additionally, 30% of college students reported they had problems with coursework due to their mental health issues.

Sometimes students have to miss class because they don’t feel well — maybe they have a cold, maybe they’re having massive anxiety. Both reasons are okay. But both reasons aren’t always treated the same by professors.

This means mental health in the classroom still isn’t entirely respected or normalized. If we’re overwhelmed, we’re told everyone else is, too. We’re essentially told to try harder and to move on from our problems because everyone has them.

A third of college freshmen experience mental health issues, according to Psychology Today. That’s a large proportion of students walking on this campus. Whether they’re students who are dealing with one of the biggest transitions in their lifetimes or they’ve been dealing with mental health problems for a while now, every student deserves to feel respected by their instructors.

Professors should reach out to students who aren’t showing up to class or doing well — especially in smaller, more intimate classrooms. Professors should support the students who show up to their office hours and express concern about their performance moving forward. Professors should recommend resources, or at least take students’ stories seriously. 

Again, students would rather not be struggling in the course and it’s very difficult to tell a professor that you’re struggling as their student. 

The State News Editorial Board is composed of Editor-in-Chief Madison O’Connor, Managing Editor Mila Murray, Copy Chief Alan Hettinger, Campus Editor Kaitlyn Kelley, City Editor Evan Jones, Sports Editor Paolo Giannandrea, Photo Editor Sylvia Jarrus, Multimedia Editor Haley Sinclair, Social Media and Engagement Editor Wolfgang Ruth, Staff Representative Matt Schmucker and Diversity and Inclusion Representative Edwin Jaramillo.

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