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Mental Health Day: Real or publicity stunt?

Mental health issues are nothing new to students at the College, so many students were excited to hear that the administration was making Thursday, April 28, a mental health day, where classes were canceled. While the initial idea was a hit, many students ultimately felt like the day was more of a publicity stunt than anything else.

The day, which was supposed to be Colby Liberal Arts Symposium (CLAS), was canceled. The College kept classes canceled for students but moved Thursday classes to Friday instead of canceling Thursday classes or making Friday a day off.

Many students did not view this as an actual mental health day for two main reasons.

First, students tend to make schedules with lighter Friday classes, so by shifting classes, the administrations gave students a harder Friday than they otherwise would have had. Second, professors view days off as a time to give more work, so many students spent the whole day either catching up on work or trying to tackle everything assigned for the next day.

Kailey O’Neil ’23 thought the mental health day was a good idea in theory, but that this one missed the mark, mainly because of the amount of work students had to do instead of focusing on their mental health.

“I think the idea overall is a good one. However, I feel like students are usually unable to genuinely use it as a mental health day and instead use it as a catch up day. Colby professors tend to see breaks and days off as opportunities to assign assignments that take longer to complete, so students use their “time off” to  complete such assignments. Therefore, no mental health benefits are gained whatsoever,” O’Neil said.

Ainsley Bonang ’25 agreed, as she did not think that one day was enough to make a difference nor did anything happen to actually aid students’ mental health on that day.

“I do think one day isn’t really enough to address mental health. It happened to fall at a time when I really needed it, but there are more times when I could’ve used one. I also think they could’ve done more to address mental health, such as a workshop or something. Students need support all the time and not just on one day,” Bonang said.

Students have often felt unsupported by the administration when it comes to mental health, especially during this pandemic.

The College offers free therapy, something which has been utilized at record rates this school year. Students have been finding themselves overworked, overtired, and overwhelmed, with stressors coming from every facet of life.

Several students felt that along with just being unhelpful, the mental health day was more of a publicity stunt than something that was actually supposed to improve mental health on campus.

Abby Recko ’22 felt like the mental health day did not actually help anyone.

“I felt that mental health day did not accomplish what admin thought it would mostly because it was only one day that didn’t change anything about our workload/stress levels. It didn’t really do anything to combat the burnout everyone is feeling,” she said.

Recko went on to explain that it was unhelpful because the point of it was not to help students but to make the College look good.

“It felt like a performative gesture that didn’t have any tangible results other than confusing me about what day of the week it was,” she said.

Amanda Alpert ’25 agrees with Recko.

“I think the administration should be more transparent about mental health and the days they give to students, especially since this mental health day to me seemed like it was more of a replacement to the canceled Liberal Arts Symposium rather than a true mental health day for students,” she said.

Alpert, whose class from 1 p.m. — 4 p.m. got moved to Friday, had to spend most of the mental health day preparing for a quiz in that class and had to give up her Friday afternoon, which she usually has off.

“What’s the point of giving a mental health day when we have to use it to prepare for classes on Friday?” she asked.

While the administration surely had good intentions, few students found that the day aided their mental health struggles, as most students spent all day in a library doing work for classes the next day.

With all the work they had, no actual address of mental health issues occurred, and with only one mental health day at the very end of the second semester, many students were left wondering if the purpose of the day was actually their mental health.

Betsy Greenberg ’25 put it simply when she said, “I appreciated having a day off, but I don’t think it actually helped anyone’s mental health. Mental health cannot be addressed in one day off from class.”

~ Mairead Levitt `25

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