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Inhale, Exhale, and Take a Mental Health Day

By: Brianna Lopez

Mental health is important to college students everywhere and Barry is not excluded. Many students suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses that are amplified by their regular course load.   

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), common coping mechanisms for anxiety and stress include eating well-balanced meals, exercising daily, getting enough sleep, and even taking a “time-out.” 

It is this “time-out” that Barry students believe will be helpful in coping with mental health issues. Students wonder whether they should be allotted “mental health days” where they receive excused absences from class in order to cope with mental health issues.

Sophomore criminology major Angela Rodriguez said that she tries to cope with her anxiety by doing yoga, meditating, and even just taking deep breaths. However, this doesn’t always help.

“I tend to stress and overthink the little things, and the stress that comes with school enhances this,” said Rodriguez. She continued to say that she had a solid support system in her family, but they don’t always understand her anxiety. 

As a first-generation college student, Rodriguez is the first in her family to experience the stress of a college life and while her family tries to understand what she’s going through, their lack of experience holds them back. Because of the stress and anxiety Rodriguez experiences, Rodriguez believes that students should be allotted mental health days. 

“It would be amazing if Barry offered that,” said Rodriguez.

However, not all at Barry feel this way. 

Director of the office of accessibility services, Lina Villegas, said that lack of personal coping mechanisms is a common issue among students. Therefore, Villegas is against the idea of giving students excused mental health days.

She believes that students need help and guidance to deal with these issues to improve the quality of their lives. 

“I believe that students need programs to help them cope with life,” said Villegas.  “If [students] don’t know how to use the free day, it will be of no use to them.”

While Villegas explains that the office of accessibility services is not a support-based sector at Barry, her office does provide help to students based on approved accommodation request paperwork. This implies that modifications need to be made in a students’ environment for them to be completely successful.  

This paperwork is required of students if they wish to have an emotional support pet, which is one of the services students are offered at Barry. Sophomore criminology major Semira Clevers said that she would like to have an emotional support pet, but she doesn’t for a couple of reasons. 

“I live in a small room on campus. I don't feel like that's fair to the pet. It's also an expense that I can't afford,” said Clevers. 

Villegas also agrees that having a sense responsibility is important before deciding to have an emotional support pet. 

“Taking care of the pet becomes an issue: cleaning after it, feeding it, et cetera. There’s responsibility involved in that,” said Villegas. 

While Villegas knows that caring for a pet while juggling classes is a lot for a student to handle, she still believes that pets are a great support for students struggling with mental illness to have. 

“Pets support the needs of students, especially residents, since they are away from home,” said Villegas. 

Clevers also believes that students should be giving mental health days, but also understands that some people may take advantage of this privilege. Knowing this, she still wants Barry students, faculty, and officials to know that mental health is equally important as physical health. 

Rodriguez seconds this.

“Just because someone doesn’t look like they suffer from a mental health issue, doesn’t mean they don’t. We should be compassionate and try to help [each other] out,” said Rodriguez. 

Whatever your stance on mental health days, it should be clear that taking care of yourself should always be a priority.  Reaching out to faculty and staff here at Barry is crucial. You can get resources on Barry’s website online or even go in person at the counseling office. 

“There’s support here,” said Villegas. “You just need to ask for it.”

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