Abigail Sanchez
Opinions Editor

Since the pandemic began, mental health has been the topic of many conversations. After all, it isn’t easy to be disconnected from friends during this pandemic. Distance learning is also proving to be difficult for many. Last November, a Quaker Campus article by Jordan Garcia noted that, in a poll taken on Quaker Campus’ Instagram, 95 percent of 64 student respondents voted ‘yes’ when asked “Has distanced-learning negatively affected your mental health?” In 2020, visits related to mental health in children’s emergency rooms was 44 percent higher compared to the year before. However, in schools, a student can only have an excused absence if they are sick or have a family emergency. What about excused absences for mental health days? We need to start normalizing mental health days in schools if we want to combat the mental health crisis that has been present in schools and society, only made more visible during quarantine.

Having mental health days in schools can be seen as “coddling the kids,” but is it really? Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., but for people ages 10 – 34, it is the second leading cause of death. Mental health is a problem we need to take seriously, especially in our schools. By pushing a narrative that it is okay to take a day off to care for your mental health, it will encourage students to grow with the understanding that they do not have to hide or push themselves past their limits. If someone is allowed a break when they are sick to care for themselves and recover, why shouldn’t the same be applied when someone is in need of a break for their own mental health? Everyone has limits, and it is not ‘coddling’ to give a day off to students who have reached theirs. Additionally, normalizing mental health days could also help in opening up conversations between parents and children about mental health.

In 2019, Oregon passed a bill which expanded the reasons for excused absences in school to include mental and behavioral health. This bill was pushed forward by Oregon students who wanted to destigmatize mental health in a state where the suicide rate is 40 percent higher than the national average. At the end of January of this year, lawmakers in Arizona and Utah proposed legislation in their state to add mental and behavioral health as a reason to miss class. The bill passed unanimously in Arizona. While Utah has already passed a bill in 2018 to allow students to take time off school for a mental illness, the new proposal from Republican Rep. Mike Winder would expand the reason to include any other external pressures which would affect a student mentally. Similar laws to the ones proposed in Oregon, Arizona, and Utah have already been passed in Maine, Colorado, and Virginia within the last two years.

According to Debbie Plotnick, Vice President of Mental Health America, having these mental health days “can help children and parents communicate and prevent struggling students from falling behind in school or ending up in crisis.” Pairing it with mental health services in schools can help make it even more effective. I know I was grateful for the Whittier College Counseling Center adapting to the pandemic by going virtual and hosting Mental Health Mondays every week. We need to start normalizing being able to say “I need a mental health day” and go take care of ourselves. It should be okay to miss school or miss work for a day in order to focus on our mental health first. In airplanes, one of the safety procedures is to put on an oxygen mask on yourself first in an emergency before helping others. How can we be expected to focus on other tasks without focusing on ourselves first?

Only being given a long weekend in exchange for our spring break is not enough. The College may have their reasons for taking away our spring break, but they need to consider the students’ needs as well. Spring break was the time for students to restart and take a break after midterms and ready themselves to face the rest of the semester. We need it more than ever with the module system. Sometimes, one to two days of break in between modules is not enough; some of us are probably still finishing up finals from the last module during that time.

When about 44 million U.S. adults experience mental health issues in a given year, we need to make mental health a priority, especially when we are still a year in of quarantine. People may say that mental health days will just be another excuse for students to miss school, but they already do that by pretending to be sick. Besides, students can still have the same number of excused absences; mental health will just be another reason for an excused absence, along with illness and family emergencies. Society needs to learn that it is okay to put one’s mental health first, just like it is okay to reach out for help when needed. No one, at any age, should have to feel like their mental health comes second, or even third. Start normalizing mental health days because there is no shame in taking one.

Featured Image: Aubry Acosta / Quaker Campus

Author

  • Abigail Sanchez has been writing for the Quaker Campus since fall 2019 and is currently the Opinions Editor of the Quaker Campus. She is also a freelance writer and has written for two feminist media platforms. She enjoys writing about political and social issues that affect the country and her community. In her spare time, Abigail likes to listen to music, read books, and write fictional stories.

Abigail Sanchez has been writing for the Quaker Campus since fall 2019 and is currently the Opinions Editor of the Quaker Campus. She is also a freelance writer and has written for two feminist media platforms. She enjoys writing about political and social issues that affect the country and her community. In her spare time, Abigail likes to listen to music, read books, and write fictional stories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Next Post

How Far is Too Far to Travel for the COVID-19 Vaccine?