• Published Date:

February 2, 2022

Dear Howard University Community, 

Recent events, from the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic to the multiple bomb threats issued against our institution, have taken a toll on all members of our community. I am grateful for all the messages of support I know that we have received from friends, family and advocates of our University who live around the world during these difficult times. In recognition of the additional challenges that have been heaped upon our shoulders, Howard University will close on Friday, February 4 and will reopen for normal operations on Monday, February 7. 

Even during ordinary times, the students, faculty and staff at Howard University endure a tremendous amount of stress. We all fall victim to the mentality that our personal wellbeing is insignificant compared to the welfare of equality and justice in society, that we must tolerate a certain amount of mental and physical strain in pursuit of change.  

It is critical that we actively work to reverse this narrative. We can do more good for the world when we feel good ourselves. Strengthening our communities and enhancing our society begins with preserving the health and vitality of our minds and bodies. 

Let us use this time away from our classrooms and offices to focus on ourselves. I encourage you to detach from the activities that cause us stress and to find space that provides us with rest and relaxation. It is my hope that we may return to our responsibilities on Monday rejuvenated and energized. However, the purpose of this mental health day is not merely a means to improve the quality and effectiveness of your work. The intention is to ensure that each of us is healthy and well. 

Only you can determine how best to use this time. But I hope if needed that you will consider seeking out professional help from the staff at the University Counseling Service who can be reached by phone at 202-806-6870 or email HUCounseling@howard.edu to request an initial appointment. Just as we consult with a physician to ensure our physical health, it is important that we all work with a professional to ensure our mental health. There is no weakness in asking for help; on the contrary, the fullness of our strength can only be measured when we avail ourselves of all our resources. Rankin Chapel also provides a variety of wellness opportunities that you can use on the chapel’s website

I grapple with the legacy of mental health every day, both in regard to my family and my professional life. My father died from suicide a month shy of my third birthday. I was not aware of the manner of his death and its relation to mental health until I was an adult. But this knowledge fuels me to consider my psychological needs and to empower those around me to ensure that my mental health is getting the attention and care that it needs. 

I hope we all find this time away from our daily activities to be a useful exercise. But it should by no means represent the only time we dedicate to our mental health this semester. Just as we must be mindful about our daily diets and exercise needs, so must mental health be a daily requirement. We must be conscientious about the mental toll we are burdened with so that we may be intentional about finding and bringing about relief in our life. 

Best of health to everyone. 

Excellence in Truth and Service, 

Wayne A. I. Frederick 
Charles R. Drew Professor of Surgery