The National Taiwan University’s (NTU) Student Counseling Committee has passed a proposal for mental health leave that allows students to take leave when they are feeling mentally unwell, for up to three days per semester, the NTU Student Association said yesterday.
The committee approved the proposal in June, allowing students to log on to the online leave management system and file for mental health leave when they find it difficult to go to class that day, the student association said on Facebook.
Students would not need to provide proof of illness, it added.
Photo: Lin Cheng-kung, Taipei Times
Students can file up to three days of mental health leave per semester, and can apply for leave on the day that they would be attending class, the association said, adding that when a student files for mental health leave a second time, the system would notify the university’s Center for Student Well-Being and the Student Counseling Center, initiating care services for the student.
The approval of the mental health leave proposal indicates that the university administration is paying attention to students’ mental health issues in a positive light and is willing to combat the stigma surrounding mental health problems, the association said, adding that everyone should have the right to hit pause and give their body and mind a break.
There are about 10 universities that offer mental health leave, including National Taiwan Normal University, National Chengchi University, Taipei Medical University, National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), National Sun Yat-sen University, Chang Jung Christian University and National Taipei University, and students can apply for up to three or five days of mental health leave per semester.
However, some students are concerned that they might be stigmatized for taking mental health leave, or that they would first need to obtain approval from a lecturer.
Several academics and experts at a cross-generational campus forum in Taipei on May 7 said that mental health leave should protect students’ privacy, be destigmatized and allow students to file for it without asking for a doctor’s note.
NCKU Student Association head Huang Kang-chi (黃康齊) said at the time that mental health leave must take into account whether it can be kept private, whether a teacher’s approval is necessary and whether the application procedure is user-friendly.
He said that when students take mental health leave at NCKU, they only need to file for it on the university’s online leave management system, and while the university’ Student Assistance Division is notified for future reference, it would keep the filing private so a student’s classmates do not find out if they took the mental health leave or simply skipped class.
Child Welfare League Foundation CEO Pai Li-fang (白麗芳) said it is easier for university students to take leave from class than senior or junior-high school students, as the latter need to fill out a leave request form which is usually collected by a class officer, potentially making it difficult to obtain mental health leave.
Moreover, junior or senior-high school students have the pressure of getting accepted into a good senior-high school or university. They have full-day courses, so if they need to talk with a teacher at the school’s counseling office, they have to take leave from class, she said.
Pai said that many students are most concerned about interpersonal relationships, so sometimes, even if they want to visit the counseling office, they could be worried about being made fun of or bullied if other classmates find out.
Therefore, if junior or senior-high schools wish to initiate the mental leave mechanism, they need to consider how to protect student privacy, Pai said.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Rosalia Wu (吳思瑤) cited the Ministry of Education statistics which said that reported suicide attempt cases among students from elementary school to university level increased eight times from 2016 to 2020, and deaths from suicide increased 1.65 times, so mental health issues on campus should not be neglected.
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