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Students Should be Allowed Sick Days to Care for Their Mental Health

Research from a nationally representative dataset shows that the rates of chronic psychological distress, past-year MDE, and past-year suicide-related outcomes, including the idea of suicide, attempts, and suicide deaths, have increased significantly among teenagers in the past two decades. While this can be attributed to factors such as birth cohort, the surging cases highlight the need to tackle mental health issues differently, especially among students.

Allowing students to have sick days to care for their mental health has continued to divide opinions in different states, with some already practicing it. Is this the viable solution to the ever-increasing mental health issues among students? Yes, it is. Here is why:

What Are Mental Health Days?

Mental health days refer to allowing students suffering from mental health issues to skip school so they can care for their well-being. These include teenagers who want to attend therapy appointments, those suffering from panic attacks, and those suffering from trauma who require time to grieve. The main intention of having such days is to bridge the gap separating mental and physical health.

Why Has It Been Difficult To Allow Students Sick Days To Care For Their Mental Health?

States such as Washington, Maine, Colorado, Oregon, California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and Illinois have already approved excused absences for mental health for school-aged children and teens. However, most of the states are still hesitant about approving the idea because of reasons such as:

Concern From Parents 

Most parents remain concerned that allowing sick days for mental health will mean that their children will get behind in school, which, in turn, would bring about low self-esteem and a lack of motivation. They insist that children should be taught when they are fully focused, dedicated, and at their best.

Students Might Abuse Mental Health Sick Days 

Mental health issues are difficult to detect since they are not physically visible. A student might be in distress but looks okay on their face, while others may look like they are suffering while they are not. The challenge with allowing sick days for mental health issues is that it will be difficult to identify genuine cases from those that are not.

Generally, sick days are universally accepted because people can see that the patient is suffering. That explains why the responsible parties will always quickly approve them, and cured patients would be happily received when they resume work or school. The fact that mental health issues do not have visible symptoms explains why they aren’t always met with the same understanding and compassion as those with physical health problems.

Sick Days Will Improve Students Mental Health 

While it’s true that there are many factors currently standing in the way of allowing sick days for students to care for their mental health, the following points show why it is time for us to start having the conversation and implementing the same:

Proactive Care Is Better Than Repair 

Parents might be concerned that giving sick days to care for mental health issues will leave their children behind regarding their education. However, we must notice that prolonged stress causes more problems than falling behind in class. The more such issues are ignored, the more we will have to deal with dilapidated emotional wellness, stagnated academic progression, and poor physical health. Allowing the students to rest for a day or two can help put them back on track quickly and effectively.

The Number Of Students Suffering From Mental Health Issues Is Rising 

As aforementioned, the number of teenagers suffering from mental health issues keeps rising daily! The saddest bit is that the affected parties have not shied away from asking for help. A report from 2020 shows that mental health breaks were one of the most requested resources by teenagers. Giving them what they want might be the cheapest solution for this menace.

With Mental Health Days We Have A Better Chance Of Managing Mental Health Issues Among Students 

Over the past two decades, we have tried the old-fashioned ways but failed. Modern problems require solutions, and giving sick days is one of them. This way, we can easily track the progress of the affected students with utmost transparency.

The surging numbers of teenagers affected by mental health issues require a new and effective approach: giving sick days is it. While there are genuine concerns about how educators can implement the idea effectively, the pros outweigh the cons. It is better to care proactively than repair. We need modern solutions for our current problems.

Written by Mary Joseph
Education World Contributor
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