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UTSA Professor Allows Student Mental Health Absences

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A professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) revealed that she is permitting students to skip her class this fall semester for mental health reasons.

Department of Communication instructor Mary Dixson said that she has noticed students struggling, not just with course content and school work, but with their mental health. She shared a story of one student who admitted to feeling really stressed about getting a high grade and making his parents proud.

The professor claims that the number of students expressing anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues seems to double every year, which is why she often gives consideration when it comes to due dates.

“I did some research and found the problem was more far-reaching than I could have imagined. Anxiety and depression are on the rise,” she said, citing a 2019 survey result where 60 percent of respondents admitted to experiencing anxiety while 40 percent said they suffered from severe depression.

Now that the world is still suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dixson cited a recent survey of college students where 87 percent reported experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety.

Actions Being Taken

In addition to allowing students to skip classes for concerns related to mental health, the professor said she has normalized opening up about such topics in the classroom. She said she often shares her own struggle with anxiety and how she managed it.

Dixson also explained that she encourages embattled students to utilize campus resources and overcome the stigma of seeking professional support. She also often posts advice on social media on how to practice self-care.

“I soon had an inbox filled with student emails expressing gratitude and a sense of not being alone,” she remarked. “More of my students have since reported using these services and taking care of their mental health.”

Dixson is hoping that with the steps she is taking to address mental health issues in the classroom, more students will be encouraged to acknowledge how they are feeling and find ways to care for themselves.

Moreover, she expressed that such actions do not just support students psychologically, but also increases their chances of succeeding in the classroom. “My hope is that in five years, students will automatically recognize that their mental health is health,” she concluded.

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