ow does the most universally hated phrase by parents — “I don’t want to go to school today” — come to be? It starts off when you are funneled from back-to-back extracurriculars, SAT prep and 2 a.m. study sessions. It build when you straddle the line between awake and asleep, when you down a cup of coffee every morning and do your world history homework in Algebra 2.
And then, you wake up after another listless day and you feel physically fine — but mentally, you are beyond exhausted.
As students, we prioritize everything but our mental health. But sometimes, we need a day off — a mental health day. The idea of a mental health day is not a new concept. In 2017, when Madalyn Parker, a web-developer in Michigan, wrote that she would be taking the day off, her boss’ response went viral. He not only affirmed the necessity of mental health days, but applauded her for “cut[ing] through the stigma.”
Mental health days need to recognized, especially in schools. A day off may not be a cure-all, but it does encourage students to give greater priority to their mental health. It gives students a break from the mounting pressures of schools — a time to reflect and think, and just spend some time by themselves. Students rarely focus on mental health — imagine if we took a day to truly evaluate our emotional needs.
Of course, it is hard to regulate a mental health day. How can we know students are using these days productively, not just as a means to skip class? There is no way to regulate this, but what we can do is trust students, once or twice a year, when the pressure becomes too much.
After all, we let students take the day off for a flu without verification — why not do the same for mental health? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, half of students experience mental illness by the age of 14.
Give yourself time to hop off the rat race — taking one day to recuperate saves much more time than an entire week of school missed when the physical symptoms of a poor mental health inevitably catch up to us.