OPINION: UNCW must implement wellness days

Emma Sheeran, Opinion Editor

Last October, UNC Chapel Hill announced that they would be adding five student wellness days to their spring semester calendar. This move was made to replace the traditional spring break amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The wellness days were accompanied by mental health resources such as an online self-screening tool, peer wellness groups, well-being coaches and peer tutoring.  

The pandemic has made everyone much more aware of the importance of mental health and wellness. Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression have skyrocketed since the onset of the pandemic last year. Isolation, quarantine and social distancing have all had aimpact on socialization, which is a huge part of the college experience. This lack of socialization has led many college students to become stressed, with some even developing anxiety and depression as a result.  

According to a study conducted last fall, 71% of college students indicated increased levels of stress and anxiety due to the pandemic. Difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating and problems with academic performance were all identified as contributing factors to increased stress and anxiety levels.  

Moreover, the prevalence of depression in adults in the U.S. has tripled since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic according to a study conducted last fall. The study found that individuals with lower social resources, lower economic resources and greater exposure to stressors were the most susceptible to depression.  

College students often fall under all three of these categories. Not only do many college students have to pay for their own education, but they are also subject to greater exposure to stressors such as job loss. In fact, a recent poll showed that 38% of college students lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemicTherefore, student wellness days are essential in these tumultuous times.  

UNC Chapel Hill’s student wellness days are not typical days off from school. According to an announcement by University Communications“wellness days are intended as breaks from the semester – not for studying – so faculty will be instructed to avoid scheduling exams, quizzes and other major assignments on days following these breaks. These dates are intended to give our community as much of a break as possible.  

Students are encouraged to use these wellness days to take care of themselves and their mental well-being. This is a great step forward in prioritizing and destigmatizing mental health across the U.S. Five days off from school may seem insignificant, but the impact will be felt across the university. Student wellness days may also help prevent or slow down student burnout, which has become a major problem with the switch to Zoom classes.  

UNCW must implement student wellness days moving forward. This change would lead to increased academic performance, increased mental health and a decreased rate of student burnout. Student wellness days would ultimately benefit the university as a whole. This is an appropriate change to make in the coming semesters as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.