Mental Health Matters

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Driven by high rates of youth suicide and depression, some states are now providing the legal backing for students to take a “mental health day”.

Kids and teens are constantly growing, learning, and figuring out how to navigate the world. Add on the fact that many kids are dealing with anxiety or depression, bullying, learning disabilities, or other mental and emotional challenges, and it’s pretty clear that most kids and teens aren’t living simple, carefree lives. I believe that students in Georgia need mental health days for them to take care of themselves, help them control stress, and manage other mental and emotional changes.

 

Mental health days for students give the opportunity to take a mental break from the stress of work. “Mental health days” now join the flu, stomachache, and common cold as excusable absences in schools in Oregon and Utah. Some states let students take mental health days because it falls under the category of sick days. Legislation passed this summer in Oregon allows students five excusable mental health days. In Utah, permissible illnesses were expanded in 2018 to include mental illnesses in addition to physical ailments, according to The New York Times and the Associated Press (AP). The data shows that a sizable number of U.S. students could benefit if other states pass similar laws.

 

According to mental health advocates, the changes in school policy—along with other efforts—have been significant steps in reducing the stigma around youth mental health and suicide, which have been shrouded in shame. “The first step to confront this crisis is to reduce the stigma around it. We need to say it’s just as okay to take care for mental health reasons as it is to care for a broken bone or physical illness,” Debbie Plotnick, a vice president at Mental Health America, told the AP.

 

Diagnosis of anxiety and depression in adolescents is increasing, and the consequential effect on academic performance is inevitable unless accommodated for. I support Oregon and Utah laws for accommodative sick days for students with mental health issues. I believe these laws should be a model to regulate educational departments in each state. Schools should recognize students’ mental health disorders and accommodate for this by allocating “sick” days each semester explicitly for mental health and recuperation, therefore increasing student performance.

 

Managing everything in life can sometimes become quite challenging, especially when you’re a teenager. As a teenager myself, there have been days where my mind is so exhausted from dealing with a tremendous amount of schoolwork and social issues, that I end up just not feeling like myself. On some days, I wish there was a pause button on life so I could take a break and sit with my feelings for a while. Part of being a teenager is learning to cope with those feelings and lift yourself back up so that you can get up stronger than when you fell. It’s perfectly normal to feel sad, but the only way to help you feel better is by taking a break. We all deserve a break, no matter how chaotic your schedule is. So yes, I do think that states like Oregon are setting an example for what all states in the country should be doing: allowing students, who are humans, and need breaks, to take one when necessary.