Mental Health Days for Students

written by Kate Taylor and Taylor Kelly

In the wake of COVID-19’s negative impact on teen mental health, many are asking for help. Recently, “three leading groups in child and adolescent mental health have declared a state of emergency” as reported in Psychiatric Times. How should schools and parents respond?

School has not been normal with off-and-on virtual and in and out of masks, students no longer have a sense of what is normal. Isolation and more time alone with themselves has caused a decline in mental health in teens. “With the pandemic, many youth have been socially isolated. They have been attending school virtually, have not been able to see their friends, and have not been able to participate in extracurricular activities. Most of my patients have struggled academically with the changes and are having difficulty catching up” as reported in Psychiatric Times.

Mental health can be taboo, but should it be? Beginning the dialogue of mental health is important to help prevent and treat mental health. “The most important thing to remember is that mental illness can begin at the earliest of ages. Waiting until teens reach their 20s or 30s to deal with mental health can be detrimental.” reported by Healthline.

A study performed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry declared a national emergency in children’s mental health.“We are caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families, their communities, and all of our futures,” said AACAP President Gabrielle A. Carlson, M.D. “We cannot sit idly by. This is a national emergency, and the time for swift and deliberate action is now.” Some suggested solutions from the article:

  • Improve access to telemedicine
  • Support effective models of school-based mental health care.
  • Address ongoing challenges of the acute care needs of children and adolescents.
  • Address workforce challenges and shortages so that children can access mental health services no matter where they live.

Teens have busy and stressful lives. There are many ways to help mental health, but sometimes what teens need is a break.

When asked what students do outside of school, most of them say chores, homework and any extracurricular activities on top of a full day of school. Going to school full time, trying to get good grades, balancing a social life and working at the same time – not to mention surviving a global pandemic. That is a lot for a teen to handle. 

Central High School students were asked questions about mental health; the responses were insightful.

The article ,“Warning Signs of Mental Illness” shows mental health issues often start showing up in kids around 14 and up. It can be physical issues or mental and emotional issues. These studies can be further confirmed by students at Central High School: when asked if they have ever been so stressed they feel like they can’t do anything, 93.3% of respondents said “yes.” 

Most students also reported getting between 6-8 hours of sleep per night. The article, “Sleep in Middle and High School Students” says teens need to get more sleep than children and adults because teen’s minds and bodies are growing so much and sleep fuels the body to do those things. If teens aren’t getting enough sleep, this can lead to sleeping during school and then later stressing about catching up on the school work you missed. It can also cause hyperactivity and nervousness.  

73,684 Sleep Cartoon Stock Photos and Images - 123RF

When asked if the students think focusing on mental health is a big deal, 100% of survey respondents said yes. So what are solutions that can help? Many states are starting days called “Mental Health Days.”  In the past two years, several states, including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Virginia passed bills allowing students to miss school as an excused absence for mental health reasons. There is not a certain amount of days students can take off it’s whenever you need to 

So, on this day, students don’t go to school and just take a break and catch up on some things they need to catch up on with less worry about their stressors. A person does not need to have an officially diagnosed mental illness to need a mental health day. I suggest students should be given three days a semester to have a “Mental Health Day” and their parents or guardians have to be aware they are taking this day off. Hopefully this will help relieve stress on our teens.

The importance of student mental health days explained in 7 minutes

Mental health doesn’t have to be a hard battle to fight alone. Here are a few tips and warning signs parents can look for.

According to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine, a national poll shows that 46 percent of parents say their teen had shown signs of a new or worsening mental health condition since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. “Parents should be aware of warning signs, such as withdrawal and isolation from others, drop in grades, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, substance use, apathy, and suicidal thoughts,” said LeMonda from healthline. “Early detection of anxiety and depression can lead to early intervention and better treatment outcomes.”

Things Parents can do:

  • Relaxing family rules
  • Talking with an expert
  • Trying a web-based program
  • Keeping communication open while still giving space
  • Encourage better sleep habits
  • Begin the dialogue early

Mental health affects every teens life either directly or indirectly. Making mental health a priority in  schools is vital to the success of students. Change needs to be made in order to ensure healthy mental health of teens. 

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