BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Mental health is a buzzing topic, so much that sick days are even being used as “mental health days” in some institutions.
September 7 through 13 is Suicide Prevention Week. The organization, Active Minds, on the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s campus is a nonprofit organization whose main goal is to destigmatize mental health and open a safe space for students to engage in conversation about it.
Active Minds President and senior student at UAB, Juhee Agrawal, says the UAB chapter hosts events on campus to get students talking about mental health.
“We wouldn’t think of like cancer, for example, as a personal flaw,” Agrawal said, “so there isn’t any reason that we should also think of depression and anxiety as those things too. Active minds is really just trying to normalize those topics.”
As organizations work to normalize mental health topics, some institutions are beginning to count mental health days as excused sick days. Oregon passed a law in July 2019 giving students five mental health days per a three month period.
The state is among the first to take this step.
One in four people are affected by mental illness and each year 1,100 college students die by suicide, according to the World Health Organization and Active Minds.
Professors at UAB also encourage students to attend Active Minds events, offering bonus points.
As far as if universities will begin offering mental health days as sick days, UAB has a form of answering the question. UAB provides outlets for students who suffer from mental health issues.
“One resource we have at UAB is Disability Support Services and mental health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, anything like that – it qualifies as a disability,” Agrawal said. “Students can enroll in Disability Support Services and then if they are unable to go to class because of their mental health issues or any sort of mental health concern that would interfere with their course work, they can run it through DSS and then DSS will talk with the professor and then mediate with the student and professor.”
While mental health sick days are not specifically named, universities like UAB are making strides to accommodate students who may encounter like-situations.