Students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are working towards getting a mental health day implemented on campus for students and faculty. 

From working with local resources and support to taking it to national levels, students on campus are finding various ways of pushing the conversation regarding student and faculty mental health along with how to see about getting designated days established for mental health breaks and education.

Caemon Scott, a sophomore studying public relations, created a five-question survey to see what students think about bringing a mental health day to UL Lafayette. Scott wants the university to have a day in both the fall and spring semesters for students and faculty to take a day off from classes and relax and recharge as well as learn about the mental health resources offered at the university. 

“It’s about the regular student who goes through everyday life struggles, has a job, who’s stressed out in school, and maybe one day needs a day off to like refocus, take a break, and reset,” Scott said. 

Scott first came up with the idea after talking to a friend from another university who mentioned how their college was having a mental health day. Although at first disapproving of the idea, after feeling mentally drained coming back from Thanksgiving Break last semester and still having to prepare for final exams, Scott knew that others had to be feeling what he was feeling. 

Around December of last year, Scott brought the idea to UL Lafayette’s University Program Center (UPC) to start getting feedback and support. From there, Scott went into the Spring 2023 semester with a plan to establish his proposal, gather student input and reach out to the departments and organizations he needed to get help. 

Scott used his lessons from his public relations classes and advice from his professor to come up with the idea of the survey to gather accurate data for his proposal to the administration. 

“It brings statistics, and numbers don’t lie,” Scott said. 

With support from the UL Lafayette Police Department, Student Government Association (SGA), UPC, the UL Lafayette Chapter of NAACP, Office of Student Engagement and Leadership, Student Health Services and some sororities and fraternities, Scott plans to take the research he’s done about other universities’, like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Eastern Illinois University, wellness days and the student feedback from the survey to administration in March. 

Two days after the survey was released, more than 450 students completed it. The survey currently has more than 700 student replies. 

Other students like SGA President Destiny Broussard took the desire for a mental health day to Washington D.C. Broussard and SGA presidents from other Louisiana universities got the opportunity to meet with the State Higher Education Executive Officers, the federal association involved with TOPS, FAFSA and mental health for those pursuing higher education. 

Although Broussard and the other presidents spent little time in-person with the association, she wrote an email to them explaining why UL Lafayette is in need of a mental health fair. 

According to Broussard, she wants the university to set aside a day during the semester to give students and faculty an opportunity to learn about mental health-related situations and aids. Class would still continue, however, students would not be required to go to class. 

“Let’s teach teachers this every semester. Let’s teach students this every semester by giving that mental health fair,” Broussard said. “So teachers can still have classes, but they have to excuse students. And they can’t have any tests or quizzes that would basically interfere with that student.”

Broussard started this pursuit in the Fall 2022 semester and approached the university administration first, but with some administration opposing the idea and scheduling difficulties because of hurricanes, according to Broussard, she decided to revamp her idea to have just a mental health fair and take it to the federal level.  

According to Broussard, the most they heard from the State Higher Education Executive Officers was that they plan on bringing more training for faculty on how to help students cope with their mental health, but Broussard was not satisfied with that response. 

“Universities have mental health training devoted to teachers devoted to students, and obviously, it’s not enough. It’s still a problem. So it’s obviously not enough,” Broussard said. 

Broussard intends to reach out to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris as well as senators, some congressmen and congresswomen and representatives to get this day implemented into UL Lafayette. 

“We observe a National Mental Health Day, so don’t you think we should observe it at the university? I found that universities around the country do this as well, so it’s not like it’s not possible at all,” Broussard said. “Seeing that just gave me hope that there is a chance, you just have to keep pushing.”