Op-ed: Professors should emphasize ECAPS on day one

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Professors should highlight the services at ECAPS at the beginning of the semester. / Illustration by Ally Rzesa

By Isabella Pelletiere

I felt confused and lonely after I missed a week of class due to suicidal thoughts. When I explained my situation to the counselors at Emerson Counseling and Psychological Services, they sent me to the hospital. The ECAPS staff told me they emailed my professors, who excused me from class that week. I went home, took the week off, and regained the strength to finish the fall 2017 semester. I returned to class confident, knowing ECAPS told my professors about  my situation and hoping they would help me catch up on what I missed.

Most of my professors asked about my well-being, and it seemed like they cared. But in one class, my professor pulled me aside to notify me that I could fail the class. I ended up passing, but I questioned if I passed solely because of my hospitalization. I asked myself, “What about the students who struggle with mental health issues, miss a lot of classes, but don’t go to ECAPS and get sent to the hospital?”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24. Since the majority of students fall into this age range, it’s critical to address the mental health policies and resources on campus.

Assuring all students know about ECAPS is key. As a transfer student, I didn’t know about ECAPS until many months into the academic year. To fix this, professors should highlight the services at ECAPS at the beginning of the semester. It’s required for faculty to place a statement about Student Accessibility Services on their syllabi, but not about ECAPS. Requiring this of professors would create an environment where students feel comfortable addressing mental health.

If professors acknowledge the topic of mental health at the beginning of the semester, more students will feel comfortable confiding in their professors about their situation. In return, professors can help these students get back on their feet. By opening the discussion on mental health, professors will show students the importance of their psychological well-being.

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