Mental health days offer students time to cope with stress

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Illinois students now have access to five mental health days.

Samantha Freehling, Scribe Reporter

To cope with the residual stress of remote learning and isolation from the nationwide pandemic, Illinois schools are now required to grant students five mental health days per school year. 

The absences will be excused without a doctor’s note, and students will not be penalized for missing any work they fail to complete during their day off. If a student takes multiple mental health days consecutively, a school counselor will reach out to see if further support is needed.

“I feel as if mental health days allow for a break from the constant pressure from school and hard classes,”  Danielle Santos, a Junior at SHS, commented. “As someone who is taking five AP classes and is involved in many activities in and outside of school, there are many days in which I do not have the mental capacity to try hard or even try at all in my classes.”

With this new institution, schools hope to improve the mental well-being of students, especially considering the stress and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking the time to relax and recoup is vital to a strong work ethic and a positive mindset.

“I think having a day off has the potential to help students deviate from the social or academic routine that is causing them stress,” Mr. Elzinga, school psychologists, remarked. “All of us experience ups and downs emotionally; the key is what we then choose to do in response to those feelings.”

“I know that the mental health days have helped multiple of my friends,” reflected Andrew Shadel, a Sophomore at SHS. “They have taken the days off to simply gather themselves, then return to school.” 

Many warmly welcome the new legislation, but others worry that students will misuse their mental health days, instead of utilizing as intended.

“My hope is that this option leads to student-parent dialogue that includes a quality discussion about why the day is needed,” Mr. Elzinga stated. “This would both ensure the mental health day is actually needed and that the student then spends the day positively since they are doing so at the expense of being in school.”

Each person requires different assistance when it comes to mental health. The fitness of your mind is just as imperative as your physical wellness.

“The most important thing that students can do is talk with a trusted adult about their struggle,” Mr. Melton, the Department Chair of the Student Support Teams, said. “We all struggle in some way at some time, and adults at school understand that. Talking with an adult you trust can help to bring you closer to supports that are available in and outside of school.”

But the fact that schools and administrators proactively acknowledge the importance of mental health and are willing to excuse absences for students is unheard of.  The new law on mental health days is an impressive step towards improving the psychological welfare of both current and future students.

 

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