Every single day, students are constantly under an immense amount of stress from various factors. Some are able to handle it better than others, depending on the situation. Especially in high school, teenagers are going through so many changes in their lives that can affect how they act and are able to participate in what they enjoy. Pressures outside of school can heavily influence how they perform within school, so it is important students are taking care of themselves, in order to do their best in school. In Oregon, there has been a movement that is allowing students to take mental health days, and they will not count as an unexcused absence. This is being done in order to help end the stigma around mental health. There should be more schools that take after Oregon with allowing mental health days because of the stress students are under on a daily basis and how that can affect their overall wellbeing.
What Types Of Stresses Are Students Under?
High school students can be some of the most stressed-out people for more than the reasons most people think. Many teenagers find it difficult to simply deal with the everyday worries of going to high school. This includes homework, tests, pressures to apply to colleges, and so much more. But, what many overlook is what else is expected of them. Students are often expected to have jobs and be involved in sports or other activities. On top of this, the rise of social media has added a great amount of stress because of the picture-perfect images that are displayed online. A Royal Society For Public Health survey reported by the Child Mind Institute showed that social media can significantly decrease the quality of mental health in a teenager. Because of all these outside pressures, it often becomes difficult for teenagers to focus strictly on academic work. This makes the mental health day vital to the wellbeing of these students because it allows them to have a break from what is happening in their lives and to just focus on how to improve their mental health.
What Is Being Done To Help Students?
Schools around the country are beginning to realize the need to fix the mental health crisis among teenagers. Some schools have implemented therapy dogs that are used to calm students throughout the day. Others have teachers that are allowing their students to utilize flexible seating. This type of arrangement allows students to feel more comfortable in their classrooms, and to make it a less stressful learning environment. Schools are also giving homework-free weekends if the teachers feel their students are too overwhelmed with everything that is going on. In recent years, teachers have become much more aware of the amount of pressure students are under. At a high school in Marblehead, Massachusetts, a French teacher takes time to meditate with her class. In the article, it is described how relieved the students feel before the class, and how it allows them to perform better. If teachers are working to improve mental health, then the wellbeing of students should be recognized at a higher legislative level, such as what is happening in Oregon.
Why Are Mental Health Days Necessary?
As previously mentioned, students are often in desperate need of a break. In a PBS article, it was said that the suicide rate in teens and young adults has reached its highest point since 2000. In 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death in people in that age group. With these tragic facts, it is clear something needs to be done about the wellbeing of young people. Many students believe that they cannot take a day off from school when they are struggling emotionally because they feel that people will judge them if they are not physically sick. If these mental health days are considered the same as physically sick days, then it will help to erase the stigma around mental health. Some students also just need a break from the daily stresses they face. Many students feel guilty for lying about being sick, so with mental health days being implemented, it will allow them to take the day off that they need.
What Is Oregon Doing To Help Students?
Based on the fact that Oregon has gone over the national average for suicides over the past thirty years, there needed to be a change. Because of this, four students proposed a new state law to have excused mental health days. The law that was eventually passed allows students to take five mental health days within three months. Oregon governor Kate Brown signed the bill, and it is the first of its kind. It has been studied that mental health has significantly declined since 2000. This has led Oregon to approve the bill that was proposed by these students.
There has been a significant amount of backlash from the public about the bill, as many people don’t understand how much students are struggling. The objection has come from the fact that Oregon had the worst absentee rate in the country during the 2015-16 school year. It was reported that 1 in 6 students were constantly absent from school. While the backlash is understandable because of the absentee history in Oregon, it is not fair to say that all students would take advantage of these mental health days. With the statistics of the suicide rates in Oregon, it is clear there needs to be something done to improve the mental wellbeing of students.
Other Ways To Improve Mental Health
In order for anything to be done about the mental health crisis, the stigma around it needs to be ended. So many people are afraid to talk about mental health because they think it will make them seem weak or emotionally unstable. However, so many people around the world, including celebrities, athletes, and other well-known figures, have started to talk publicly about the issue. If more people continue doing this, then it is more likely that people will take mental health as seriously as physical health. When the stigma starts to diminish, more people will feel comfortable asking for help, which will hopefully save lives. These mental health days should not make students feel guilty about how they are feeling, but help them accept it and take steps to improve their wellbeing.
This OpEd was written by U4SC Student Intern, Caroline.
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