Five reasons why this is so important

Maintaining good mental health is so important to a student’s overall well-being. Sometimes students need days set aside to recuperate and take care of their mental health. To get a better understanding, we did an Instagram poll to see how SJU students’ stress levels were with finals approaching. A staggering 100% of students who voted said they felt increased stress. To combat this issue, some states have already started offering mental health days off to students. There are many factors that play into this situation and why excused mental health days are necessary.

Anxiety and Depression Rates for Teenagers and Early 20’s are High

Concerns have increased over the years regarding the mental health of teenagers and people in their early 20’s. In America about 70% of teens report feeling anxious or depressed and 61% of teens feel pressure to get good grades. In the US, anxiety disorders affect 40 million people over the age of 18 each year. Even with the proper treatment, students with anxiety and depression need mental health days during school.

Regular Stress Levels (Even Undiagnosed)

Stress and anxiety are very normal to have, but when a person has too much stress it can be good for them to take a step back and take care of themselves. Having excused mental health days can be a way for students to take a break and learn to balance their stress levels. Only 36.9% of people suffering from anxiety receive treatment for it. Although it is normal to have some stress, you do not want it to control your life. Some things a student can do to relieve stress during a mental health day is sleep, catch up on work, do something fun, meditate, or anything that helps relax their minds.

Unexpected Personal Circumstances

Sometimes unexpected things occur that can affect a students ability to learn and participate in school. For instance, the loss of a pet or a bad breakup are not classified as reasons for an excused absence, but these circumstances can impact a student mentally. Over the last few years we have learned that mental pain can be just as strong as physical pain. If someone can miss class because of a cold, shouldn’t another student be able to miss class because of the loss of their dog? This is where we need to consider the importance of personal circumstances and how they can affect each individual.

Creating a Lie to Miss Class

Many students are afraid to tell their professors that they are in need of a mental health day, so instead they say they are sick or something to get out of class. We conducted a survey that asked students, “Have you ever lied to a professor about why you were missing class when in reality, you needed a mental health day?”. 72.7% said yes, while only 27.3% said no (see chart below). Faith Sakkos filled out the survey and said that an excuse she has used in the past was,” I am feeling under the weather and think it’s best if I don’t come to class today.” This seemed to be a common theme with the survey results. Senior Lilly McCann asked professor Deron Albright for his opinions on the matter, “Yes, I absolutely think mental health days are valid excuses. To my mind, the deep, core benefits of education only really kick in when students are in the right frame of mind to participate. Forcing people into a room is never going to be a constructive path to learning.” This is not always the case with all professors, which is why it is so vital for colleges to recognize mental health days as excused absences.

Grades

The desire for good grades often results in stress and anxiety for students. This type of anxiety can lead to students needing mental health days to study more or to take a break. The issue with that is, many professors will change letter grades depending on how many classes a student misses. For classes where attendance is crucial, students will feel pressured to go even when they are not in the right mindset. Also, college is at a harder learning level than students are typically used to. This increases the pressure to maintain decent grades with a challenging curriculum.

Taking care of your mind is significant to being healthy and happy. No matter what the circumstances are, everyone needs to take a break sometimes. Excused mental health days would be beneficial to students in so many ways. With the absence being excused, it allows for students to uphold good grades, not feel guilty, and take the time to actually focus on themselves. Students will perform better in school if they are mentally ready to learn and take on challenges.