Editorial: Students need more mental health days

Editorial Board

With midterm season upon us, most of us are drowning in papers, exams and presentations. Sleep is scarce, and it seems like the day isn’t long enough for everything that needs to get done. While this isn’t unusual for this time of the year, something feels different about this spring semester. As of late, things seem even more desperate than usual.

First, let’s keep in mind that weather probably has a significant impact on how we feel during the semester. The constant overcast, early sunsets and persistent wind and snow make it miserable to trek to class. Although the past couple of weeks have been overwhelming, on Monday, when the weather was a balmy 55 F—a welcome respite from the minus 30 temperatures from days before—the joy was palpable in the air. Heavy coat jackets, hats and snow boots were shed and cute outfits were donned. Even though most of us had several major assignments due this week, having this sunny and warm start was refreshing. But when the weather reverted back to a frigid, bleak landscape within a couple of days, our slightly improved moods quickly went away, leaving us with only stress.

Going back to earlier in the semester, the university gave us two “true” snow days, which were definitely needed. Being able to just take a couple of days off and not trudge through the snowstorm or even log into Zoom courses was a relief. However, the palpable relief clearly shows how overworked we are. Aside from those two days, Case Western Reserve University—from administration to professors—never really considers our need for a break. It feels as if professors think that their class is the only class we take. They fail to realize we are all also applying for internships or jobs and are involved with extracurriculars—plus, we do also have social lives. So, when professors give us five assignments and an exam due within the span of two weeks, it’s cruel. It perpetuates the unhealthy mindset of only working, and that we need to disregard our collective mental health to do well in school. And sure, part of making sure we have a healthy work-life balance is through time management, but how can we possibly manage our time when the workload isn’t manageable?

We aren’t saying that all professors don’t take our mental health into consideration or have unreasonable expectations, but this semester, it is becoming more of a trend. To a certain extent, it is reasonable that professors want to have assignments and grades before we go on break, but why make everything due within the span of two weeks? Surely an assignment schedule that is more evenly distributed is possible. Instead, students suffer the consequences. We lose our sleep and healthy eating and hydration habits; we sacrifice our sanity to get good grades.

In spring 2021, not having a break significantly impacted our mental health, and the university thought that giving us two mental health days in the middle of the semester—which several professors disregarded and still assigned work as normal—was an adequate replacement. This semester, while we do have a week off, work is still being piled on, which will make many of us extremely burned out by the time we reach that coveted break. And sure, we technically can take breaks to recharge ourselves, but most of us don’t feel like we can afford to truly take time for ourselves; if we get out of the zone, it’s hard to get back in.

The student body needs official mental health days through the semester. One week off after several weeks of constant assignments and exams is honestly not enough. Having a few mental health days and more spread out assignments during the semester would benefit everyone. Professors would likely see better class participation as well as better engagement overall with students, with better work on exams and assignments also arising as a result.

CWRU continues to put our coursework above our physical and mental health, but they have the power to change that culture. Maybe students would “think beyond the possible” more often if the university prioritized our well-being.