Mental health days change outlook on mental health

March 10, 2022

The brain is one of the most important organs in a person’s body. It has many varying functions such as guiding motor skills, emotions, memory, touch, breath control and so much more. Therefore, mental health is very important to sustain. Due to its importance, the offer of mental health days, days taken out from school or work to focus on mental health, is prevalent.

Because the need for good mental health is important, Senate Bill 1577 states specified rules to justify a mental health day.

For up to five days, when absent from school because of mental/behavioral health, a student will not be required to show a doctor’s note. Once the student comes back from the mental health day, they shall be given the opportunity to catch up on any work that was missed, according to Senate Bill 1577.

The bill goes on to say that upon the second mental health day used, the student shall be sent to the school support personnel.

But can taking a mental health day be beneficial?

The main point to a mental health day is just to relax and detach yourself from life for a bit. Through thorough research, I think a few ways a person could spend a mental health day is by making a routine to keep up with mental health in the future and doing activities like reading, meditating, journaling, exercising and being with friends and family.

Taking a mental health day has historically been debatable by people who consider it. Sure, you get a day off to de-stress and focus on your inner-self, but when you come into school the next day, you have to make up everything that was missed. This could certainly add on to the level of stress which you just released from the day prior. Heck, I’ve even come back from sick days with mountains of homework to make up.

Surely there are benefits to taking a mental health day.

Long-term substitute health teacher Kaiden Jackson checks in on her mental health daily by journaling and meditating.

“When I [take] mental health days, I make it a big focus to be where my feet currently are,” Jackson said. “… I know it’s hard not to, but if I’m really having a mental health day, and if I am really focusing on bettering myself …[I] should be pushing … any work that I need to do or make up… to the back of [my]… head.”

No, a mental health day does not mean you skip school the next day because you have some minimal stress over homework, that you don’t want to do. Mental health days are meant for people that have too much on their plate in and/or out of school. Many understand why they are taking a mental health day but not what they could have done to prevent it or from happening again in the future.

AP Psychology teacher Daria Schaffeld says she believes in proactive mental health.

“If you are needing a day, then take a day. The bigger question is … why did it build to the point that you needed to take a day,” Schaffeld said. ” … Prioritizing sleep, prioritizing eating healthy, prioritizing exercise, those needs are wonderful, and they would prevent getting to the tipping point [to call out a mental health day.]” 

Currently, the limit to the number of mental health days a student can take is five. So, how do these days differ from calling in for a sick day?

“They are calling them mental health days … but students have always been able to have their parents call them out [of classes] for different reasons, whether physical or mental health or vacations. So, I’m not really sure if the differentiation is there,” Schaffeld said.

The reason why they created a whole new, separate day for mental health is shown in the The National Mental Health Act that came into effect on April 15, 1946.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the National Mental Health Act authorized the operational head of the public health service to improve the mental health of U.S. citizens by giving them funds to increase their research into the causes and treatments of mental health disorders. They have found that taking a mental health day is extremely beneficial for stressed people because of the rewarding relaxation you get. 

Sadly, these new mental health days are not recognized nor taken as much anymore. Physical health is often viewed as more important than mental health; mental health is extremely overlooked, and many people don’t care to support it as much as they do to their physical health.

“You can’t look at mental health and avoid it … If we all prioritized other things and really looked at our schedules and said no, then stress [would be less of a problem],” Schaffeld said.

If mental health did not matter, mental health days would not be needed, but it does. Sadly, most people don’t realize how important mental health can be, so they end up taking the mental health days once they realize their mental health is lacking.

Those who take a mental health day could be extremely rewarded, and some students might not realize that their mental health is negatively impacted, similar to Jackson when she was in Highschool.

“In high school … I struggled the most with mental health, and I wished I had that one teacher that stepped up and just asked how I was doing,” Jackson said.

Another issue to take into consideration is that most students don’t realize if they’re getting enough sleep every night. One thing that most high schoolers lack is, hands down, sleep. And I have realized this by just talking to other students at Prospect.

According to nationwidechildrens, on average, teenagers get around seven hours of sleep every night. This can get problematic, because sleep has a substantial impact on mental health.

Schaffeld explains, if you don’t get enough sleep, you can get sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can cause you to feel tired during the day, affect your ability to concentrate and focus, cause you to make mistakes often, not perform as well in sports and have plenty of other negative side effects which can greatly add to the amount of stress in life.

“If humans focused on sleeping more, because … a lot of mental health [is correlated] to sleep deprivation, [we would have less stress overall],” Schaffeld said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high schoolers should sleep for eight to 10 hours each night. Since teenagers get less sleep than recommended, this explains why mental health days have been seriously taken into consideration more than ever before. 

Now, after doing research on how much sleep teenagers should get, I will admit I don’t even get enough sleep. It’s really easy to scroll through a few TikTok videos or other social media platforms before you go to sleep. This usually leads into hours worth of time that you should be using to get a good night’s rest.

According to the American Psychological Association, on average, people with lower stress levels report sleeping more hours a night than adults do with higher reported stress levels. This shows that the people with less stress have a better quality of sleep. 

This is another reason why mental health days are important. Taking a mental health day can improve your sleep which has countless other benefits to it.

If you’re worried about missing school and having to make up all the work you missed, look no further. You can take alternatives to mental health day, so you won’t have to miss school. For example, you could take an hour-or-so break from homework and enjoy your hobbies outside of school.

Prospect should come together and think of ways to better help student’s mental health.

“I think communication is the most important part,” Jackson said. “Teaming up between teachers and students can bring awesome ideas [for alternatives] to the table … What’s going to start is conversations to figure out a way to bring more attention to [mental health]. I think including students in the conversation is very important, because they are also affected by mental health.”

These alternatives could be as beneficial as taking a mental health day, but taking a whole day to do the things you love can be more rewarding than some of these alternatives.

“I want [students] to know that it’s totally normal for you to be going through something … I want to be able to share my experience and tips and better assist these students so they aren’t afraid to advocate for themselves,” Jackson said.

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