This week is Craccum’s mental health issue and we’ve truly been inundated with contributors who want to write about and share their mental health experiences. We are proud to contribute to efforts to share mental health stories and continue to open the conversation – particularly in a year where people’s mental wellbeing has largely worsened as a result of the world around us.
The University recognises that good mental health is key to student wellbeing. There are initiatives in place to support mental health, but the University can always do more – especially when students are overwhelmingly expressing that mental health is worsening across our cohort. So this week, my message is plain and simple: The University can do more to support mental health. It’s a sweeping statement but it’s true.
I want to discuss something important: Improving mental health is about holistically supporting students and creating an environment where good mental health can flourish and poor mental health can be treated. This reaches beyond health and counselling and into all areas of the University. Anyway in which student mental health can be strengthened and supported makes a difference. It’s reducing barriers to accessing resources where needed, it’s removing compassionate consideration fees, helping financially where possible and being open to having creative and practical ways to support student wellbeing.
Students must feel that the university is standing alongside them and in solidarity with their struggles – whatever they are and however they are contributing to their health.
The University is trying, but there is always more to do.
I want to use this opportunity to talk about an issue related to mental health – compassionate consideration application (CCA) fees.
For those of you who aren’t aware, the CCA fee is a small fee a student is charged if they fail to sit an exam because they are sick, mentally unwell, or have suffered an accident. Students who miss exams have to pay the fee, or risk having their exam marked as a DNF, which could potentially cause them to fail their papers.
I hate these fees with a passion. That’s because they prevent students suffering from mental health issues from accessing the support they need, when they need it most.
The fees are stupid on the face of them – they’re little more than extortion, a ‘pay this or you will fail your class’ fee the university charges students who are sick or mentally unwell. Worse than that, from what I understand, the fees aren’t even used to cover any costs. Most of the process for lodging a CCA is automated, so there aren’t any real monetary costs involved. Instead, the fee is only there to dissuade students from using the service unless they have a ‘real issue’.
I detest that logic.
The CCA fees, in their current form, exist because the university assumes that any student who is sick or suffers from a mental illness must be lying. They are a real, financial barrier students face to getting help for their illnesses. Worse than that, they’re a mental barrier too – because the existence of the fee implies the university doesn’t believe its students, and because the application itself often requires students to spend hours and hours of their time proving they are ill (at a time when they are at their lowest).
The university has always said it is serious about tackling mental health issues among students. The university has done a lot of good work in this area. But there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
That improvement could start with the university removing compassionate consideration fees. Not just for this semester, but for every semester. They’re an unnecessary expense the university foists on students who are suffering because they are sick or mentally unwell. They’re pointless. And they should be scrapped.