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For some students, attending school in a post-pandemic world causes incredible stress. Yet only 12 states in the country allow students to take mental health days.
According to Ebony McGee, an assistant professor of diversity and urban schooling at Vanderbilt, “Weathering the cumulative effects of living in a society characterized by white dominance and privilege produces a kind of physical and mental wear-and-tear that contributes to a host of psychological and physical ailments.” She continued, “We have documented alarming occurrences of anxiety, stress, depression and thoughts of suicide, as well as a host of physical ailments like hair loss, diabetes and heart disease.”
And parents are fighting back, demanding that educational institutions allow for these days off for students. 77% of the parents in the study reported personally allowing their student to take a mental health day.
Mental health days for students
While 12 states allow mental health days as an excuse for missing school, over 30 do not. Some of the remaining states have potential legislative bills allowing students up to 5 mental health days per year.
In most schools, mental health care is not a priority for students. This is particularly true for Black students, who are more likely to be disciplined rather than supported in mental health challenges.
However, the schools themselves are not entirely to blame for the mental health crisis among students. Many school districts have limited budgets that do not allow for on-site counselors or social workers to address students’ needs.
Additionally, when school budgets get cut, support services for students are the first to go. This is a losing situation not just for the students, but also for the parents and other family members.
Mental health days can help mitigate the difficulties Black students face in a nation-wide school system that is built on White supremacy. According to Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist, “Think of it like this: If you were exhausted and feeling sick, pushing yourself to keep going, to work or to school, would probably be a bad decision.”
While experts recommend students take the time to preserve their mindfulness, using the time appropriately is paramount. Taking a break from screens and getting a chance to experience mindfulness is key.
According to Allison Dubinski, a LCSW at the Child Mind Institute “Mental health days can be positive for any child, as long as they’re done in a way that’s not reinforcing avoidance or anxiety.”