Opinion: Mental Health Days are important

Lincoln Public Schools should designate days for when students are feeling mentally drained.



Graphic by Sophia Merritt

Sophia Merritt, Photography Editor

According to an article titled, ‘When You Should Take a Mental Health Day,’ written by Elizabeth Scott, a contributor to Verywell Mind, a mental health day is defined as a day off geared toward stress relief and burnout prevention. This definition, as broad as it is, leaves mental health days open to interpretation for Southeast students. For some, it may be a day away from school or work to clean the house. For others, it’s a refreshing opportunity to take the day to sleep and watch TV. For senior Estrella Uribe, there are a couple of things that may keep her home on one such mental health day instead of attending school.

“My main reason for taking a mental health day is usually due to the fact that I haven’t slept a lot due to school and schoolwork,” Uribe said. “Another reason why I’d take a mental health day is that I had [a] breakdown due to the stress of school.”

If students are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or are having trouble focusing, they may want to consider taking a mental health day. It’s easy to determine this by looking at one’s life as if it were divided into sections for work, school, family, and extracurriculars or passions. If one of these seems to be overflowing. while others that the student likes to do are not, then it may be time to take a step back and focus on those things as a part of self-care. It’s important to remember that mental health is just as important to the overall well-being of a person as their physical health.

According to Uribe, taking a day off helps her body recover and, therefore, she believes mental health days would be beneficial for students’ studies overall.

“I know [a lot] of students feel the pressure of school and feel as though there is no escape. I’ve definitely felt this way before, and it would’ve been nice to take a break and relax, even just for a day,” Uribe said.

While many students believe that mental health days are important, Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) does not include it as a viable reason for an excused absence. Other states like Utah and Oregon have changed their definition of valid excuses to miss school to include mental health, along with states like Colorado, Florida and Washington, who are also attempting to pass similar laws. Their thoughts behind allowing these days off is to allow for parents and counselors to take notice, enabling them to spark conversations with students about mental health. With mental illness rates rising steadily and at alarming rates for youth, it has become more important than ever to cater to students’ mental needs.

“I feel it should be like taking a day off from work where you can call in and for the most part not be penalized due to the fact that they know that you’re taking care of yourself,” Uribe said.

A lot of times people in the workplace also don’t have a choice but to go to work when they are feeling overwhelmed and drained of energy. Otherwise, they are forced to take it as a sick day. If it is revealed that they were taking a day off to sleep and regain energy, they would be told that that is not an option — because, after all, companies fear losing money and a “mental health day” may not be seen as a valid excuse for that loss of money. A survey taken by ‘Mental Health America’  found that out of nearly 10,000 people who participated, 55 percent agreed with the statement, “I am afraid of getting punished for taking a day off to attend to my mental health.”

Along with this, many bring up the issue that there will still be work when returning from the day off. Skyler Reising, a counselor at LSE, had brought this up as one of the things he considers when he thinks of mental health days.

“If you’re a school counselor, your work doesn’t go away,” Reising said. “It just sits there and waits for you until you come back.”

However, the goal of a mental health day is to become more energized and motivated to get things done or improve after returning from the break.

Another one of the resurfacing potential issues is whether or not people will take advantage of the amount of days that they count as mental health days.

Ben Lechtenberger (12) said that while people may take advantage of these days off, LPS could work to control the amount of days, similar to how they keep track of attendance now.

“Putting a cap on the amount of days allowed [could fix the issue],” Lechtenberger said. “I don’t think it’s too hard to regulate.”

Other than school restrictions, some students feel like they will be seen differently if they take a day to care for their mental health. Because it is not often seen as an acceptable reason for absence, students and employees continue to attend — even if they know how it will affect their health. If LPS were to allow for more leniency with their policy on mental health days as well as days off in general, we could prevent this stigma and work to better the health of students.

Despite this stigma, Uribe respects those who are empowered to take care of their own health, even if it is looked down upon. According to Uribe, it is important to pay attention to mental health for the overall health of the body.

“People should know that it’s okay to take days off for yourself,” Uribe said. “Many people may feel as though they may get behind on all of the work they have to do, but in the end everything will work out and by taking a day off, they’ll feel much better.”