We all know we are living in extraordinary times. The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the way we live, work and learn in ways that we could not have imagined. In the last week, we have heard that many students would appreciate a mental health day.
World Mental Health Day is Saturday, Oct. 10, and given the stress we have heard that many of our students are under, we recommend faculty recognize Friday, Oct. 9 (which is also midpoint of the fall term), as the University’s observance of World Mental Health Day by “pausing” instruction on that day, creating a three-day weekend and allowing time for self-care. While the compressed academic calendar does not allow us to provide a day off, this pause might include, but is not limited to: changing a live lecture to a recorded one to be watched at a later date, postponing the due date of a paper or rescheduling a quiz. We believe that faculty flexibility and compassion on this day, and throughout the semester, will support and facilitate better student mental health.
Faculty, you have the discretion to adjust individual class sessions, provided you make alternate arrangements to meet all learning objectives of the course. For example, you may choose to teach courses in an asynchronous fashion, although certainly it’s recognized that not all course content can be delivered in an asynchronous fashion. You also have the flexibility to move assignments, exams and quizzes from Oct. 9 to another date as well. We encourage academic departments to have discussions about providing flexibility and accommodating students.
Students, we know that you are working through many challenges and we hope that you will take advantage of available resources such as grading accommodations and resources to relieve stress and aid mental health. These include:
- Counseling and Psychological Services: CAPS offers caring, confidential and comprehensive services to help students gain healthy life skills and academic excellence by achieving and maintaining a healthy emotional and mental outlook.
- Campus Health: Campus Health provides a full spectrum of expert, patient-centered and inclusive ambulatory primary medical care for students.
- Campus Recreation:Campus Recreation provides a diverse and intentional recreational program, encouraging and helping UNC-Chapel Hill to stay active.
Staff, we understand you are all experiencing workplace stress as well. The Employee Assistance Program offers confidential counseling and resources to help University employees and their families deal with both personal and work-related concerns. We encourage a meeting-free mental health break for staff that day as well. We will host a virtual University Employee Appreciation Day later this month.
Taking care of our mental health is paramount during these extraordinary times. We all must attend to all aspects of wellness, recognize the necessity for individuals to exercise agency when and where they can and encourage as much flexibility as possible. We encourage the Carolina Community to observe Oct. 9 as World Mental Health Day giving both students, faculty and staff a day to take care of one’s own mental health.
Kevin M. Guskiewicz
Robert A. Blouin
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Chair of the Faculty
Chair of the Employee Forum
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs