“Mental Health Days” helpful for students


By Danah Bialoruski


While Arisbeth Sanchez, Div. 455, sits in her room taking photo booth pictures and crying about the homework she did not finish, students are in school.

Recently Sanchez had taken a personal day, or mental health day, in order to relieve herself of the overwhelming homework that she could not finish the night before.

“It was 3am and I had none of my homework finished,” Sanchez said. “I thought I would be able to stay up until 5am to finish it but figured that wasn’t going to happen and just went to bed.”

Sanchez said that that morning before school, she explained to her dad that none of her homework was done and that she did not want to have to go to school without it and risk her teachers getting angry at her.

“I knew if I went to school that I would get in more trouble for not having my homework than if I didn’t go to school at all,” she said.

Though Sanchez said that she did spend a lot of her day messing around and taking photos of herself and occasionally crying from the stress, she still managed to get the homework she did not finish done. She was even able to finish all the homework that was due on Monday, getting the assignments from her classmates.

“I actually wanted to go to school on Monday,” Sanchez said. “I felt so relieved and prepared. I wasn’t scared to go to any of my classes and risk getting yelled at since all of my homework was actually done.”

Sanchez works at Muvico during the weekend, babysits during the week, and plays on the lacrosse team. She also takes AP and honors classes. She says it is hard for her to find time to complete all of her homework or study and gets stressed really easily. She has been so preoccupied with her after school activities and school work that she says she has not been able to start the college process either.

“I’m one of the only people I know that hasn’t applied to a college yet,” she said. “I don’t know where they find the time.”

Jordyn Washer, Div. 480, is another student that takes the occasional mental health day.

Like Sanchez, Washer has a schedule filled with AP and honors classes. She is also the head manager for Varsity Boy’s Basketball and secretary of Native American club. She says that both extracurriculars are large time commitments and sometimes get in the way of school work, even when she tries not to let them.

While at home, Washer likes to mostly sleep and watch movies to help relieve the stress.

“I usually like to just stay in bed and watch Netflix and listen to some music and sometimes sleep,” Washer said. “It just helps me relax and forget about the amount of homework for a little while.”

But even when students reek the benefits of taking a day off from school and being able to relax themselves, sometimes the next day at school can pose as a struggle.
“The whole point of taking a day off is to relax, but then you go back to school and realize the amount of work you now have and then you, well I, get stressed again then at that point, I kind of start regretting the day I took off,” Washer said.

Mental health days are becoming more and more common. Since more people are becoming stressed out, more people are opting to take a day off for their own sake. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have found that stress has increased for women by 18 percent and stress for men has increased 24 percent between 1983 to 2009. Forty percent of high school and college aged kids have reported suffering from anxiety and unrealistic optimism as well.

Depending on the student, taking a mental health day does have the possibility of affecting a student’s grade. Lane allows five unexcused absences per semester before it is recommended that teachers lower the student’s grade.

Some teachers understand that students can be faced with stress from school or just an unplanned situation that can affect their physical and mental health. Teachers like Ms. Paganelli have special ways of handling those situations with students when that time may come.

“We all have days where we feel off,” Ms. Paganelli said. “But there is a fine line between punishing students for excess absences and then having students who don’t have excess absences and having them be the ones who stress out the most.”

Pagnelli allows her students one day a semester to take their “sick day” or “mental health day” in class. At the beginning of class, a student, for whatever reason, can go up to Paganelli and let her know that they are taking their “day”. She allows for the student to go to the back of the class and put their head down if desired. They are not forced to participate in class.

“I became aware that there are kids who have to come to school and they’re clearly sick or not doing well,” Paganelli said. “Or sometimes they get some sort of traumatic news in the middle in the day, and even though one might now always categorize traumatic as getting into a fight with your boyfriend but kids can come in and be in tears, so I like to give them the option to come in and if they’re really having a bad day they can ask to take their day.”

In America, the average teacher gets ten paid sick days and either two or three personal days to use as they please. Personal and sick days that teachers receive varies based on the type of school and even the state in which they work. Unlike schools, employers know that their employees may have to take a day off of work that may not be due to the fact that they are sick. Most businesses have benefit packages already made up and presented to the employee at the time of hiring. The only way an absence is considered excused for a student according to Lane is if the student has a note from a physician, documentation of sickness or hospitalization, documentation of death in family, or a religious holiday. Stress is technically not considered an illness.

“I definitely think there should be some lenience towards mental health days,” Washer said. “It should be treated the same way as if someone takes off for having the flu. The only difference is no one is scared of admitting to being physically sick but once it becomes an internal, unnoticeable situation, all you get is jokes and people saying you just didn’t want to go to school.”

Washer says that even though there may be no physical symptoms, stress should still be considered on the same level as an illness.

“Teachers should be more lenient towards stress days because there’s a lot of pressure on us as 16 and 17 year olds and we’re expected to just kind of take it,” Washer said.

Students have workloads that, at times, can be too much to handle. Mental health days are thought of to help relieve that stress.

“We all need to remember that we are all human beings,” Paganelli said.