Mental health days are necessary for lowering stress and ensuring overall better health

It’s safe to say that school can cause stress. Depending on the rigor of classes and amount of extracurriculars, stress can flux either high or low along the spectrum. Tales of all-nighters and papers written in a haze of caffeine float down the halls, but there is a danger for students that spread themselves too thin.

According to Mayra Gwadz, a senior research scientist as the New York University College of Nursing, in a study conducted in Aug. of this year of schools along the east coast, 49 percent of students reported feeling a “great deal” of stress while 31 percent reported feeling “somewhat stressed.” These effects can be detrimental in both the short and the long term, according to Mary Alvord, a teen psychologist based in Maryland.

In the short term it can cause anxiety; over long periods of time, elevated levels of stress hormones can degrade the immune system, cause heart problems, exacerbate respiratory and gastrointestinal issues, and bring on chronic anxiety and depression,” Alvord said.

While this an obvious problem, nothing substantial has been done to address it. Yes, school starts 40 minutes later at 8:10 a.m., but this just isn’t late enough in the morning to make a significant difference. According to the American Psychological Association, teens need to sleep in until at least nine a.m. to be fully functional throughout the day.

However, the growing levels of stress can be truly solved with a fairly simple solution: school allotted mental health days. Mental health days are when a student stays home from school when they feel particularly overwhelmed or stressed. This way, students can take a day to relax, sleep, get their energy back, or either make up work and get ahead on future work to alleviate anticipated stress.

Logistically, the school could grant each student a couple of mental health days per quarter that expire once the quarter ends. If a student wants to take a day off, they would request it with the attendance office a week in advance and get approval with all their teachers, as well as get the assignments they would miss out on.

The main and justified concern with mental health days is that students might skip out on important assignments. Mental health days should not be taken on days of important tests or projects, and may not be granted if teachers are aware the student would miss an assignment,  as the student will just have to make them up later. Instead, mental health days should be an opportunity for students to recover from a particularly hard week, either academically or in their personal lives.

It does no good for students to come to school if they are feeling overwhelmed or on the brink of a breakdown. It makes it harder to focus, and can accumulate loss of sleep if students aren’t given the opportunity to catch up or get ahead. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker in both private and governmental jobs gets between eight and eleven personal days off. Students are at school about the same amount of time as an average work day, so why don’t students get similar benefits as employees?