With the recent change to the number of mental health days in our state, I started to think about why mental health days exist and why the state felt it was important to give students more of them.
Despite the fact that students are free to use up to 5 of these excused absences interspersed throughout the school year, I have rarely seen students take advantage of them.
Personally, I think that a well-placed mental health day is important and should not be overlooked. There are many benefits to taking a little time off outside of breaks. All students need their own break at some point during the school year, and taking a mental health day at some point could help students in many areas.
First off, you could catch up on sleep that you might be falling behind on, and with that extra time, you could also put more effort into making and eating full meals to help you be energized throughout the day. I often see in school that students who are rushed or stressed throughout the week are unable to pack a full lunch or any at all. Even then, they might be too stressed or busy to eat it all. Not eating or sleeping enough can very negatively affect someone’s day and cause them to not have focus or energy, and it is important not to neglect these issues.
You could also use the day to take the time outside and exercise or relax.
Someone could even take a bit of time to catch up on any work and fully prepare yourself for the next day so that you don’t feel rushed the next day. This would also include packing a full lunch and getting enough sleep for the next day. However, it is important to remember that a mental health day is a recovery day, and therefore there shouldn’t be a ton of work you do.
Overall, by taking a mental health day to catch up on all these things, it could help you come back the next school day feeling refreshed and prepared to learn.
The first factor that I think prevents students from taking extra time off is the fear of the consequences they might get from missing school. Students might feel that by missing a day, they will miss something important like a test or presentation and be unable to recover from it going forward.
This is why it is important to time your mental health days well. Although it is nearly impossible to miss a day of school and have no make-up work, you can minimize the work by choosing a day after you’ve completed major assignments and have very little going on at school that day in order to recover. Instead of using a mental health day to do something like extend your vacation, use it at some point in the middle of a long period of no breaks to stay rejuvenated and take a step back from the stress of a constant workload. After this recovery period, come back working even more efficiently.
Another thing that may be getting in the way of students taking well-deserved mental health days is the lack of awareness and an overall lack of information provided by Uni, making it difficult for students to remember they even exist and how they work. In my case, the first and last time there was an announcement about the new mental health day law was at the beginning of the year, and I just recently remembered they exist.
The potential benefits of taking a mental health day clearly shows the importance of making sure students are aware of this opportunity and that they consider taking one. So, if you ever feel yourself getting out of rhythm or burnt out, consider taking a day off.