As a homeschooled kid, I felt free to say, “Mom, I need a break today.” Though I never called it a mental health day, oftentimes that’s exactly what it was.
The flexibility of homeschooling allowed me to plan out my schoolwork and extracurricular activities. If I had a day where I felt tired or sad (or I just needed a break), I could take time off without serious repercussions to my grade or overall education.
Public and private schools, by necessity, run on a much stricter schedule. However, this can take a toll on students.
Children and teens balance homework, sports, clubs, friends, family, a job, and hobbies around a strict school calendar. This constant busyness leaves students with minimal breaks from the stress of school and can negatively impact their mental health.
Sometimes you just need a break. But rather than have a parent call the school to say their student is sick, the states of Oregon and Utah will implement “mental health days” for their students, according to USA Today.
Why are mental health days important? The article states that Oregon has some of the highest suicide rates in the country. Local students, who lobbied for the bill, hope that the addition of mental health days will reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health.
And mental health has become more and more of a concern. According to Education Week, the number of students aged 12-17 who reported symptoms of a major depressive episode jumped from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 13.2 percent in 2017.
While a couple days off school can by no means cure depression, it gives students a chance to take a break from their hectic schedules. It gives students the option to prioritize their peace of mind, treating mental health in a similar manner to physical health.
Students are encouraged to acknowledge their mental needs. This begins the process of normalizing those needs.
In a society where achievement is often prioritized over physical and mental health, this acknowledgement is vital. Being a healthy person, physically and mentally, is just as important as being a straight-A student.
Of course, some students may try to abuse this system, but to me, the benefits far outweigh the cons.
I hope that other states follow Oregon and Utah’s lead. I hope this will be the first step in acknowledging that mental health has a real and valid impact in our everyday lives.
And I hope this gives students freedom to learn how to begin taking care of themselves.