Pro: The Strength of Mental Health Days

Marios Wallace, Contributor

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Check out: Con: Taking More Than Just A Day Off

Mental health is a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being. I was recently diagnosed with Clinical-Depression, but also with mild ADHD earlier in my life. They also suspected that I had Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), but that was never confirmed. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. Mental issues don’t only relate to autism, OCD and depression, but also to things like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and PTSD. People often get treatment from therapists, mental health facilities, medicine, therapy animals or doing hobbies they like. To be honest, it’s always nice to get a day off to help cope with ongoing stresses related to mental issues. This is why I believe that we should have mental health days, but I would limit it to three to six days per semester.
First, I want to introduce the fact that mental illnesses are not only limited to depression, autism or anxiety. For some odd reason, people commonly think that those three illnesses are the only mental illnesses that exists, when in reality, it is the complete opposite. Mental illnesses have a wide range from mild ones like OCD, to heavy ones like schizophrenia. Illnesses like schizophrenia, are long term and can basically decide your day. You can’t really control it either; it’s treatable, but not really controllable.
PTSD is a game-ender, and if you’re dealing with it in a school environment, they don’t really know the best solution. I’ve seen one student who had an episode, and it just ruined his day. I can’t fathom how people deal with something like schizophrenia or PTSD every day of their lives, especially in a public area like school. Even something like autism, in lower functioning cases, can lead to a horrible day. No matter what people use for an argument, mental illnesses are not limited to depression and suicidal thoughts/actions. It’s more of a word to describe a large spectrum of illnesses that affect your psychological and emotional state.
Now, I want to introduce the idea of what students would do with their mental issues on days off. Students will likely try to seek help. This can actually be more helpful than speaking to your guidance counselor, at least from personal and friends’ experience with mental issues. What I did on days off consisted of going to therapy, doing hobbies that I like. One of my friends has a support dog that he likes to be around when he has a PTSD episode as well as going to mental health classes. If you have a mental health issue and take the day off, you are likely strong enough to seek out help for your mental illness.
Now finally, I want to introduce the effects of mental issues and the amount of stress it puts on the person. The stress can be seen in unusual ways such as eating abnormally, sleep problems, being tired, not socializing or stress headaches. The scary part is that people often don’t think of these effects while talking about mental illnesses. In the case of most mental illnesses, people are aware they have it. It takes effort to, well, try to be normal which can obviously create even more stress, and sometimes depression. Personally, my stress levels are pretty low, but that’s because I know how to cope with it. Many teens don’t, and sometimes they just need a day off to figure things out.
So far, I’ve never seen a counselor provide viable options to deal with stress; it’s usually the same answer, and they never really go deeper. A day off for the student means that he can actually decide to find ways to deal with the stress. Personally, my solution is music and reading; it actually soothes and calms me down. For others it may be building, exercise or openly talking to people about their feelings, which is a pretty good plus that is often overlooked.
To take a day off, students should be required to provide verification from a doctor, guardian or therapist. If the student doesn’t have verification, his absence should not be counted as an excused absence. The student should also only be allowed three to six days off. This way, the days off will not lead to skipping school and taking an unexcused absence. Students who have an absentee problem will just skip school. An internal day designed for mental health that requires verification is not going to stop students from skipping school. Here’s an example, when I was in Algebra II, there was one student who showed up once and didn’t come back to school for the rest of the year. This student was visited by the police multiple times, but even then still didn’t come.
Mental health days designated in the school calendar for students to take off would be great. It would help students cope with their mental illnesses and the stress that comes along with it. Furthermore, mental illnesses aren’t limited to depression, anxiety and autism but are more of a wide spectrum of illnesses. But, most importantly, I think we should educate the public more on mental illness to make sure that people who have mental illnesses know that they can seek help and treatment for their illnesses. Go to your county representatives for the state and let them know what your thoughts are about this topic!