Mental Health Days Are Important

Nowadays, one can struggle to find someone who would deny that having good mental health is just as important as good physical health. As it is now common knowledge that poor mental health can often lead to physical ailments ranging from something as simple as headaches to something as life-threatening as a stroke. It was not until recently that the stigma surrounding the topic of mental health began to fade. This much can be seen by simply looking back at the media our country has been consuming for the past few decades. Even looking back on television shows from the ’90s reveals how one’s mental health was a topic to be ashamed of. Luckily, there has been a truly clear and significant shift in tone regarding how mental health is being addressed, especially with how mental health days are now commonplace in large companies nationwide. Ultimately, the idea of mental health days for their students was not even considered until more recently.  

Only five years ago, New York and Virginia became the first two states to enact laws requiring mental health education in schools. Even so, the changes were a bit lacking and left much room for improvement. Luckily, a recent historical event forced quick improvements to occur as it revealed just how desperately students needed mental health days. Around three years ago, COVID-19 began spreading like wildfire worldwide. No one could have ever dreamed of predicting the enormity of the situation and how this would have an enormous effect worldwide. Suddenly, everything was shut down. Most countries worldwide were quarantining to minimize the situation. Schools had to go online for the foreseeable future, making it up as they went. For many, it felt as though all their contact with the outside world had vanished overnight. Sudden, uncontrollable life changes can already have an incredibly negative effect on one’s mental health; however, with the added pressure of in-person interaction being majorly cut off, it was a horrific situation for students’ mental health. Uniondale High School sophomore Liyah Fearrington agreed, saying, “For me, COVID did affect my productivity and engagement. I felt disconnected. School wasn’t made for virtual learning and that showed not only with me but other students. If you were to ask a lot of students today what they learned on virtual, most of them would say nothing, that they weren’t paying attention.” Fearrington added, “[Virtual learning] did take my drive, knowing that you could just cheat, get up, and turn away.”  

Recent, shocking discoveries from a JAMA pediatrics article ( titled “Global Prevalence of Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms in Children and Adolescents During COVID-19: A Meta-analysis” provides insight into just how damaging the COVID-19 pandemic has been to schoolchildren’s minds. Before the pandemic hit, the rates of children’s anxiety and depression were 11.6% and 8.5%, respectively. It is not surprising that rates increased once the pandemic hit. However, it is startling how rates skyrocketed to an astounding one in five children reporting anxiety and one in four reporting depression. Surveys from a Verywell Mind article ( reveal that 60% of parents have noticed their child’s mental health taking a toll from the pandemic, with more than half noting how their children were experiencing mood and behavior changes as well as issues socializing. Deciding it was time to take action, more than 70% of parents believed that schools should officially allow for mental health days as it would have a marked improvement on their children, with 56% already allowing them at home. Subsequently, 77% of parents report mental health days having a positive impact on their children.  

Yet, just because things are getting back to normal and students are attending school, it does not mean that students are no longer suffering. Students are still expected to study, do homework, participate in extracurricular activities, and have a social life. These grand expectations can be very overwhelming at times for students. This is corroborated by English and ENL teacher Mrs. Smith, saying, “Students today are inundated with schoolwork, sports, clubs, work, etc. It’s endless! We want our kids to participate in afterschool sports and clubs, but at the same time, we expect them to complete hours of homework after school.”  John Cornicello, who teaches AP Psychology and AP Government & Politics, agrees and elaborates on the effect this can have on students. He said, “Speaking to students, they often complain about how much work they have on a daily basis. School is,therefore, impacting their mental health negatively; we need to give more support to our students.” 

Mental health days are not simply a lame excuse to skip school, waste time on social media, play video games, or watch television, nor is it a time that students can take to allow for an extra day to make up or complete assignments. On the contrary, mental health days are a tool meant to allow the opportunity to recharge and protect one’s mental health. An article published by the Child Mind Institute ( titled “Should Kids Take Mental Health Days?” lists ways to have a truly effective mental day by participating in simple relaxing activities such as: spending time in nature, baking, drawing, painting, practicing mindfulness activities, exercising, listening to music, or reading a book. Nonetheless, it is important to set boundaries in order to prevent students from falling behind due to a mental health break, causing even more stress than they had to begin with. A mental health day is just that, a day. It is meant to allow for the opportunity to regain oneself and move forward, not as a hindrance or something that aids in avoiding one’s issues, only to wind up increasing stress. Luckily, schools that do allow for mental health days report not having many issues with students abusing the system.  

Inevitably, whenever a new bill is coming to pass there are always questions. The most common being, “Are mental health days truly helpful? Or do they just delay the inevitably of school and make students even more anxious?” Luckily, an article published by the Mayo Clinic Health System ( titled “Recharge with a Planned Mental Health Day” answers this burning question by listing the multiple benefits that come with mental health days. A few of those benefits are reduced feelings of burnout, improved morale and attitude, improved resiliency, prevention of mental health crises, and increased productivity. An excellent outcome from merely one day sacrificed. Much preferable to the alternative, where a student would simply be showing up to school as a glorified zombie unable to absorb information nor get much done due to burnout.  

Although mental health days for students in New York are sadly not allowed, a dozen states around the country, including Washington and California, do. Fortunately, State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) is sponsoring a bill that, if it passes, would mean New York joining these dozen states in providing an extremely useful tool for students. He has been pushing this bill on a yearly basis since 2019, with it sadly failing each time. Nonetheless, the senator is hopeful that, given all the importance that mental health is now being given, the bill will now pass. Ultimately, if the State does decide in favor of the proposal, it will allow students the opportunity to relax and better their health.