Should students be able to miss a day of school due to mental health-related issues?
The answer is simple: yes.
Mental health has always been an issue, but society is finally starting to accept it as an illness. However, when we stumble upon the word “health,” we prioritize physical health at the expense of mental health. As a result, many people neglect mental issues, which leads to many cases being underreported. Despite the 44 million people put at risk each year, many still refuse to reach out for help, even with something as simple as taking a day off from school. A big part of this plays into the culture we have been accustomed to, which creates a stigma preventing those battling with mental illness from getting the help they need.
Because of this stigma, it is sometimes difficult for those battling mental health to seek help and take a day off from school. A step towards improving this culture is to promote the well-being of students’ mental health. With the tendency of mental illness to begin at an earlier onset than other health-related issues, providing care for such an issue can not only benefit the student but also prevent issues that may appear later down the road. With proper help, teens can develop habits personalized for them, which in turn may allow a healthier future. With more than 50 million U.S. children enrolled in public education, schools are a great place to reach students in need.
Not only could mental health days prevent future consequences, but they can also help students build a path to their academic success. According to an American College Health Association survey, students who reported higher levels of psychological distress struggled more with their schoolwork and lacked the concentration required to learn. Peers, family members, and staff may also be impacted out of concern for these students. As a result, without proper supports, we are creating an environment that is not safe to work in. Although we have access to online resources such as the hotline number printed on our ID cards, taking the time to rest and recover is much more valuable than attending school when we find ourselves in a condition that prevents learning effectively.
Juggling school on top of clubs, sports, and home duties is by far a difficult task, and almost all of us suffer to the point of exhaustion. It’s not that we want to give up, we just sometimes need a mental break. As students, being aware of our minds and bodies is the recipe for a successful academic year. Missing school for the sake of success, in the long run, is a no-brainer, as research has shown that taking a break helps spark creative minds, and therefore allows us to return to the focus level we want to be at, if not better.
States including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Virginia, and Utah have passed bills allowing children to have excused absences from school when suffering from mental illnesses. As Utah decided, mental health is a “valid excuse” for a student’s absence. Students who have taken advantage of these days have reported it opens new doors to not only a calmer state of mind but a beneficial approach to building their mental strength.
How should mental days be spent? Each day should vary, based on the problem. If you are both mentally and physically exhausted, starting the day off with a proper amount of rest or lightweight activities such as mediation or yoga is a great way to recoup your mind. On the other hand, if you feel prompted to do something productive, take a walk with your friend or tackle a goal on your to-do list. Regardless, do something that healthily engages the mind and is productive rather than spending time on a device or binging a Netflix show. For some, it may be seeing a counselor or contacting resources that will help guide them through their day.