SUUSA Discusses Mental Health Days as Excused Absences for Students

The Southern Utah University Student Association discussed the possibility of implementing excused mental health days for students at their meeting on Tuesday.

Madison Newgart, a proxy for Disabilities Rep. Elizabeth Barton, began the discussion to establish mental health days as excused absences. This idea will be presented during the provost meeting on Feb. 3.

Utah has the fifth highest suicide rate in the country, and the “pandemic hasn’t helped,” Newgart said. 

Newgart’s proposal is to provide students with three available mental health days acting as excused absences each semester with the ability to make up the classwork within a week. 

In some colleges it is difficult to make up work for even one day of missed class, such as the College of Sciences, according to  Assistant to the Senate Cat Fitzpatrick.

The senate discussed whether a mental health day should be decided on between the student and the professor, or as a scheduled day in the semester.

Veteran Rep. Tony Ochsner said scheduling university-wide mental health days would allow professors to accommodate the students needing those days off. “It’s not something that could be abused,” he said.

Newgart responded that more students would take advantage of a scheduled mental health day in treating it like a holiday. “That [also] might cause problems for students that might struggle on another day,” she said.

Vice President of Finance Alyssa Sutton brought up that instead of a mental health day, professors could be encouraged to consider mental health as any other sickness. 

“I’d rather just be able to reach out to my professor and explain I can’t do this today, rather than take up a mental health day,” said Sutton.

Vice President of Academics Abbie Jacobsen added that professors could address mental health in their syllabuses to “approach it with more openness and acknowledge that mental health days are sick days.”

In addition to bringing the input from the senate to the Feb. 3 provost meeting, Jacobsen said that SUUSA could have a discussion with the faculty senate about this need for students.

SUUSA senate meetings are scheduled for every Tuesday from 1-1:50 p.m. in the Sharwan Smith Student Center Living Room. The senators and representatives can be contacted through the emails on SUUSA’s website.


Story by: Tori Jensen
Photos by Christopher Dimond