Should Students Get Mental Health Days Off From School?

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Should Students Get Mental Health Days Off From School?

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed, stressed, anxious or depressed that you thought you needed a day off from school to reset?

Does your school allow you to take a sick day when you’re feeling mentally unwell? If so, have you ever taken one? If not, do you wish you had the option?

Depression and anxiety. The state of the country. Climate change. Mass shootings. Today’s students are grappling with a variety of issues beyond the classroom.

To that end, lawmakers in two states have recently recognized the importance of the mental health of their students by allowing them to take sick days just for that. The measures “empower” children to take care of their mental health, one expert said.

On July 1, a law in Oregon went into effect giving students five mental health days in a three-month period. In 2018, Utah changed the definition of a student’s “valid excuse” to miss a day to include an illness “which may be mental or physical.” According to a recent study, teenagers named depression as a problem among their peers. Others blamed their anxiety on politics or climate change.

In Oregon, the bill was supported by several teenagers. One recent graduate, Hailey Hardcastle, told The Associated Press that the bill was inspired by politically active students in Parkland, Fla., and that she and her peers wanted to address mental health issues in schools.

Another former student, Derek Evans, voiced his approval. “Dealing with anxiety throughout high school has always left me tired, exhausted up against some weeks, and the difference one day makes is honestly life-changing,” he told Fox 12 Oregon.

Ms. Hardcastle said some parents had opposed the bill, raising concerns that students could take mental health days by pretending to be sick. But other parents cited a real need for the days.

The parents of Chloe Wilson, who died by suicide in 2018, told The Associated Press that their daughter, who had faced bullying after coming out as bisexual, had pretended to be sick in order to stay home from school.

“Because she lied to get her absences excused, we didn’t get to have those mental health conversations that could have saved her life,” her mother, Roxanne Wilson, said.

The new laws are “a huge win, especially for individuals and families that are affected by mental health conditions,” said Jennifer Rothman, senior manager for youth and young adult initiatives for National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.