We Need to Prioritize Mental Health Days

We Need to Prioritize Mental Health Days

Do We Really Care About Our Mental Health?

Doherty High School needs to include mental health days in their list of excused absences in the student handbook. This is something that will not only benefit the student body and our mental health overall, but promote a more positive image of mental health in Doherty High School.

Currently, on the list of the reasons for an excused absence, it says, “absences are excused for any student who.. has a mental, physical, or emotional disability.” This is the only thing on the list that is semi-related to mental health on the excused absences list.

For those of you unaware of what a mental health day is, it is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a day that an employee [or student] takes off from work in order to relieve stress or renew vitality.” Basically, taking a mental health day means taking a day off from school or work if you’re not mentally in the right place to do school or work. You can use the day to recoup and regenerate your energy and feel better.

Maybe that means staying home from school and getting all of your overdue assignments done, but it could also just mean staying in pajamas and watching some of your favorite movies to recharge your batteries. It depends upon what exactly you need from the day, there’s no set way to do a mental health day. Sophomore Levi Schiff says, “I usually use mental health days just to relax and try to get some work done, but I’ve honestly also just hung out in my room and played my instruments, or spent time watching mindless content, which is sometimes needed just as much as anything else.”

Why might a mental health day be important? According to social psychologist and Northwestern University Professor Adam Waytz, “Because leisure is something that robots cannot master, experiencing leisure is one important way in which employers can help people feel like they’re much more than cogs in a wheel.”

This might not seem like a big deal to most people. But us not having mental health days listed as an excused absence is a part of a bigger issue, the stigmatization of mental health in today’s society and culture. The sophomores are being given Mental Health First Aid training, but taking a mental health day isn’t something that we get to see on the attendance report.

It’s the double standard of it all. We’re being taught to prioritize our mental health and the mental health of our friends, but we’re not allowed to take a day off to breathe and refocus. If we’re allowed to take days off to better our mental health, it’s better for us as students and as people. Statistically, 1 in 5 people will suffer from a mental health challenge before they are 18. That means at Doherty High School, out of about 1902 students, at least 381 students will suffer from a mental health challenge. This is a statistic that is provided by the National Council For Mental Wellbeing, and is one of the first things that we were taught in Teen Mental Health First Aid Training. This alone shows how we need to place more of a focus and positive mentality towards mental health.

School is already stressful enough. We’re told we need to balance all of our classes, clubs, and outside activities. Some of my classes will give tons of homework daily, and then I also have to make time for other things in my life, including my family. All of these expectations can be brutal, and sometimes we need a break.

That’s where a mental health day would come in. Mental health days would enable the students to freely take the day off without consequences because they’re not feeling mentally well enough to work.

Now, there are many cons to the pros of giving students mental health days. And it’s important to consider both sides of the argument before staking your claim as for where you stand.

One of the most prevalent cons that I’ve been told is that mental health days could be abused by students, taking the day off just so that they can miss school for something stupid. I can see where this concern is coming from. My solution to this is we were to let mental health days function like sick days. We give the students an allotted amount of time to take off so that they’re not absent from school as much. We don’t worry as much that students will abuse their sick days, so we shouldn’t need to worry about students abusing mental health days.

In contrast, taking a mental health day off of school is the boost that it gives our mental health. When I asked freshman Brandon Espitia about how a mental health day has benefited him in the past, he said, “It just gave me a break from society and stuff.”
Sophomore Rebecca Weber states “You can rest for the day, you can take a break.”

Another important factor that plays in here is that according to Colorado State Law, schools are required to include taking days off for our mental health in the excused absences list. Senate Bill 20-014, Excused Absences In Public Schools For Behavioral Health, states, “The board of education shall adopt a written policy setting forth the district’s attendance requirements. The policy must provide for excused absences, including those listed as exclusions from compulsory school attendance in accordance with subsection (2) of this section, as well as temporary absences due to behavioral health concerns. An attendance policy developed pursuant to this section may include appropriate penalties for nonattendance due to unexcused absence.” Now, this is a lot of information at once, but luckily they also provide a summary of what this means, which is that “Current law requires school districts to adopt a written policy setting forth the school district’s attendance requirements. The bill requires the policy to include excused absences for behavioral health concerns.”

All of this together shows that the pros outweigh the cons in giving Doherty High School mental health days as an excused absence.

The first step in prioritizing mental and physical health at Doherty is simple: Give Doherty students mental health days.

This article originally appeared in The Spartan.