In certain states across the United States, lawmakers are pushing to pass bills for mental health days for students. These lawmakers want “Mental Health Days” to be treated as any other excused absence, such as a physical illness. This would allow students to take a day off to relax and unwind from the pressures felt both at school and at home.
“More than 1 in 3 high school students had experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019, a 40 percent increase since 2009,” stated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “As we’ve learned nationally during the COVID-19 pandemic, schools are critical in our communities towards supporting children and families. While the expectation is that schools provide education, they also provide opportunities for youth to engage in physical activity and academic, social, mental health, and physical health services, all of which can relieve stress and help protect against negative outcomes.”
With the increase of mental health-related problems in adolescents, the only question remaining is whether or not students need these days off. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, pressure and stress on students and admin are at an all-time high.
“One important piece of coping with the pandemic is finding a sense of normalcy or routine and attending school can help with that. However, I do think there are times that we need to mentally recharge, or rest for the sake of our emotional well-being and in those situations taking a day off can be very needed,” shared Ninth and Tenth Grade Counselor, Chelsea Thornhill.
Taking days off when you are burnt out can be beneficial, but there must be a balance. Taking several mental health days can lead to students getting further behind in classes, adding to the previous stress.
“I don’t personally take mental health days, because avoiding my problems does not help me,” explained Senior Karl Moore, “I think that those that need mental health days should be able to take them. It gives people a chance to regroup and come back to school stronger and in a better mindset.”
“Taking off school to mentally rest and recharge is different than avoidance. Avoiding stress won’t make it go away or any easier to deal with. When students find themselves overwhelmed or stressed, I would encourage them to talk to their school counselor,” Thornhill further explained.
Central currently does not have a policy to account for mental health days. However, students have five unexcused absences and three parent notes that they can use when they need to take a break.
Whether or not a policy to allow mental health days should be added or remain the same, students should use the resources they have available to take care of their mental health.