Mental Health Maintenance in the Classroom

Why schools across Iowa should offer excused mental health days

Dallas Olberding

Mental Health Maintenance (Dallas Olberding)

Waking up at 6 a.m. for 7:15 class, a quick 30 minute lunch break, school out at 3:15 only to get home five hours later from the extracurriculars to scarf down a bite to eat before homework, sleep… and then repeat. Life for a highschooler can be a good experience for some, others not so much. But one thing can most certainly be agreed upon by all highschoolers — it never stops. No matter what it is you’re going through, adding seven classes with mounds of outside homework on top of everyday teenage life can just be too overwhelming at times. The solution — schools all across Iowa should offer students five excused mental health days a year. Students will be able to better care for themselves when life gets to be too much, reset and continue moving forward with their high school education and activities.


Scientifically speaking, there is plenty of research that shows how mental days benefit teens. According to Solstice RTC, approximately 61.5 percent of students deal with school related stress, but only 26.1 percent have ever taken a day off to care for their mental state. Other studies show that taking mental health days off are a chance for students to reset their nervous system and get out of their fight or flight mode, helping to reset and move forward with their education in the classroom. They can be a break from everyday stress, tests, deadlines and social pressures and bring in more time for rest, reflection and recharging.


This year, between March and May hospitals across the country saw a 31 percent increase of emergency mental health visits aged 12-17, and 25 percent for 5-11 year olds. Mental health is so important, and more than ever is it imperative to talk about and encourage care of mental health in school. When students have the option to use an excused mental health day for themselves, this can be a sign for school administration to check in on a student. Teenagers are secretive, and don’t necessarily like talking about their feelings or reaching out when needed. So whether it be a cry for help or a simple self care day, offering excused mental health days would increase conversation about mental health in the classroom setting and decrease stigma in general. Schools in Illinois recently passed a bill that would allow for students to take up to five mental health days off from school a year. With the law comes a requirement for a school counselor to reach out, with a potential referral to professional help.


From personal experience, I know an excused mental health day when my schedule is insane would do just the trick. Whether I have an upcoming show that demands six-hour rehearsals every night or just my normal dance class or marching band rehearsal schedule, when I have even the normal homework load on top of things, my world can get to feel suffocating at times. Sometimes, I don’t know how I can mentally get through a day when everything I am involved in is constantly pulling me in different directions and I am trying to please everyone. I am just one of many students who feel the same way. So with the opportunity to spend a day decompressing and organizing your life, it is probably guaranteed that there would be a lot more happy and healthy students at Mount Vernon High School. 


Given that mental health days are scientifically proven to better a teenager’s life and would also improve the conversation of mental health everywhere, the decision could not be clearer: teenagers these days need and deserve something as simple as a day off.