Wellington university students have been called out on social media for encouraging their peers to lie about having mental health issues to get extensions on assignments.
Submissions to a student social media page suggested mental health could be used as a "life hack" to get through university.
One post read "legit just complain about mental health even if you don't have it and they can't deny your extension request".
Another read "I'm super lazy but saying I'm depressed has gotten me an extension every time lmao".
The admin of the page made it clear they were not promoting the life hacks, but sharing them in a post that outlined why they were problematic.
Second year student at Victoria University of Wellington and former Youth MP Azaria Howell said she found the suggestions "a slap in the face" after having her own studies significantly affected by legitimate mental health issues.
"If you do deal with a mental illness, it's something you deal with every single day, not just when it's a convenient life hack to get you through university," she said.
Howell said her depression could prevent her from getting more than four hours' sleep a night, and she was hospitalised for mental health issues during the university semester last year.
"I've been in respite care myself and during that time I couldn't go to university, I couldn't go to classes, couldn't go to tutorials and couldn't really study," the 19-year-old said.
"I 100 per cent required an extension for that but I was worried they weren't going to take me seriously. And knowing that people are just throwing it around and lying about this – it makes it even worse."
New Zealand Mental Health Foundation Chief executive Shaun Robinson said faking a mental health crisis to get an extension was wrong and belittled the one in five New Zealanders who experienced mental distress each year.
"This behaviour continues the old stereotype of people who live with a mental illness as being unreliable and working to lower standards."
"As a person living with bipolar disorder I would be furious if people used this as a way to judge my actions."
"It's just another form of stigma, prejudice and discrimination."
Victoria University of Wellington Vice-Provost (Academic) Stuart Brock said they expected all students to be honest in their dealings with the university, including on issues of their health in relation to extensions.
"While students do not need to provide a medical certificate for extension requests of less than one week, they are expected to uphold standards of conduct and in particular, academic integrity and trusts that they will do so," he said.
Under the university's Student Conduct Statute, academic misconduct included dishonest or misleading conduct in connection with any assessment.
Howell was unsure of how universities could prevent people exploiting the system, as providing proof would become a further barrier for those legitimately seeking help.
"If universities required proof that wouldn't necessarily be a good thing … a lot of people struggle to ask for help and I think that would exacerbate the problem.
"I feel like it's a good thing that lecturers are quite lenient … I'd rather someone not need an extension and get it than someone who's actually mentally ill be denied an extension because of some people exploiting the system."