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When I take a mental health day, I spend the day doing cliche activities. I drink tea, watch Netflix, and take a bath. Some days, I sit at my desk and do homework that has piled up.
You can’t walk on a broken leg or go to school when you have the flu, and when you have a little voice in your head making you feel awful inside, you can’t always work your hardest or be as productive. Mental health is just as important as physical health and should be treated as such. Taking mental health days should become an accepted norm.
A mental health day is just what it sounds like—taking a day off from school or work as a way to relieve anxiety or catch up on work.
School Psychiatrist Lacey Maddrey explained why she believes mental health days can be beneficial to students saying, “people with anxiety could use it to calm down and de-stress.” She further emphasized, however, that mental health days should only be taken sparingly, especially considering how easy it is to fall behind when absent.
According to the Center for Workplace Mental Health, Anxiety disorders are associated with poor job productivity and short- and long-term work disability, resulting in more than $4.1 billion in indirect workplace costs. In fact, in one national survey, 30 percent of working adults with an anxiety disorder reported reduced work productivity over a four week period while a mere 0.5 percent of working adults without a mental illness reported the same. Anxiety clearly makes it impossible to function at peak performance, but taking mental health days can reduce its effects and allow students to be more productive in the long run.
In my experience, I’ve had to argue with my parents to justify taking a mental health day. A big part of that argument was the fact that my grades weren’t necessarily mirroring how intense I was describing my anxiety to be. I finished the first advisory with good grades, but at the same time, I was having regular panic attacks. One’s mental functioning doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be struggling in the workplace.
This sort of attitude regarding taking days off for mental health is not just limited to my parents. “I think there is a stigma because people think that they’re taking a day to be home and not caring about their school work,” said Maddrey. Wilson and DCPS should do a more substantial job of supporting kids who struggle with these issues. When you go to Wilson’s website to excuse an absence, the category for sickness just says “Illness.” Though this does not necessarily exclude mental health, if they had an option that cited it specifically, it would work to undo some stigma and validate the importance of mental health to potentially reluctant parents.
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a specific mental illness, it’s still justifiable to take a mental health day when you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Mental health days don’t belong to people who have been diagnosed or people who visibly suffer from a mental illness—stress affects us all. So, if you feel like your mental health is being compromised, don’t avoid it, stay home. Take care of your mind, the same way you take care of your body.