By Brooke Gemina
“The dog ate my homework,” “It was here when I looked this morning” are common excuses to avoid school responsibilities, but mental health is not.
While those excuses are exactly that, excuses, and will be greeted with an unsympathetic gaze by professors, physical illness often is treated as a valid reason – the key word here being reason. However, many individuals, students and teachers alike, would discount mental illnesses of any sort as a valid reason for absences or deadline extensions.
One student, Reana, said, “Their health is on their time, not the teacher’s.”
Commonly cited reasons against allowing mental health as grounds for “special treatment” included worries of abusing the system, as well as statements attached to the stigma of mental health.
Another student, Allisa S said, “It would be hard if they weren’t diagnosed, because I know a few kids back in high school who faked it to get drugs. “
The issue with diagnosis lies in the fact that not everybody has available and affordable treatment to mental health services, as well as the stigma. While ELAC’s Health Center does offer free mental health services, it is often a struggle for those suffering from mental illnesses to even come to the conclusion that they should seek out professional help.
A student , Jane Doe (who wished to remain anonymous) stated, “It took me about 9 years to tell my teachers or even hint at it. I didn’t want to be a bother to anyone, nor did I think there was actually anything wrong with me.
“I have stayed home from school because I sliced open my leg. I couldn’t go to school and focus on the lesons being taught – it wouldn’t be fair to my teachers or me.”
The Center for Disease and Control cites that,” 57% of all adults believed that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness while only 25% of adults with mental health symptoms believed people are sympathetic.”
The prevalent stigma to mental illness often keeps individuals from speaking out.
Mental illness can be very devastating to individuals , as studies show that individuals suffering from mental illness have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and various other physical ailments. That aside, the illness alone can make life difficult as each week/day/hour is a struggle to stay alive.
In cases such as Jane Doe, this is true, and extensions or excused absences for mental health days would come in handy as she states, “I’ll have As and Bs when my health is well, but as soon as I hit a rut all my grades drop down to Ds or Fs. “
It isn’t a matter of students just being poor students, but a true inability, and in some cases, apathy due to mental illness that poses a threat. It is more widespread than one might guess.
The World Health Organization stated that mental illnesses account for more disabilities than any other illnesses including but not limited to, cancer and heart disease.
In fact, studies report that 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness of some sort and that almost half of all U.S. adults will have developed at least one mental illness during their lifetime.
ELAC’s Professor Alex Solis has been teaching for nine years and had the following to say : ” Every semester we get students here. Our population is very diverse, so usually I will have classes with at least one or two people that need accommodation.
“I do get occasional requests; it’s usually a case by case basis. Usually just have to talk and figure it out. Nobody wants to have the reputation for just handing out extensions, but at the same time – life happens.”