Adding a Mental Health Statement to Your Syllabus

“College life can be incredibly stressful, yet so often people feel that mental illnesses are socially stigmatized in a way that physical illnesses aren’t, despite the statistical fact that the average college student is typically more likely to have a depressive episode any given semester than they are to catch the flu!

“So, I make it a course policy, and clearly state on the syllabus, that I treat physical and mental health problems on equal footing when a student is struggling and comes to me needing a little extra time or flexibility with assignments and deadlines. It’s a small step, but I hope it makes it that much easier for students to reach out and ask for help when they’re going through hard times.”

—Eliot Kapit, Associate Professor of Physics, Colorado School of Mines

Here is the mental health statement that Kapit includes on his course syllabus, provided for your use and/or inspiration: 

Mental health parity: In a given year, 5-20% of US residents will contract influenza (this rate varies greatly depending on the effectiveness of the vaccine and virulence of the seasonal strain in any given year). In contrast, around 7% of US residents experience a major depressive episode each year. In other words, depression is basically as common as the flu (and the results of the recent campus mental health survey show that it’s sadly much more common here), yet one can sometimes be socially stigmatized and the other is not. From my point of view as your professor, if you are having mental health issues which are interfering with your ability to function (in my course or otherwise) that’s a completely valid medical reason to ask for short term extensions or accommodations, just as you might for a physical illness or injury. So if your situation is hard or you feel hopeless, don’t hesitate to reach out, and I will try to work with you to minimize the impact mental health difficulties have on your performance in my class.