Editorial: Our mental health

Our position: LT should allow students to take excused mental health days.

Now more than ever before, mental illness is an issue that students deal with. It’s only intensified by the great deal of stress that comes with being a high school student. Tests, projects, homework, sports, clubs, jobs and social relationships are just some of the things that students face every single day. Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and American Medical Association have found that depression, anxiety and suicide rates have all increased by 50% or more among teens since 2000. As a result of this increasingly prevalent problem, it is crucial that LT allows students to take excused mental health days.

For a long time, our society has not treated mental health as seriously as physical health. However, physical and mental health are equally important and must be recognized as such by the LT administration.

Suicide has become the third leading cause of death among youth aged 10-24, according to a study done by the National Alliance for Mental Health. When more teens die from ending their own life than from cancer or illness, there’s a problem. We cannot be idle. One in five teens aged 13-18 have, or will have, a serious mental illness, and 8% of that same age group has an anxiety disorder. The study also found that half of all students age 14 or older with serious mental illness dropped out of high school. As school administrators, there is an obligation to do whatever they can to help those who are affected by mental illness.  Accordingly, instituting mental health days is an important step in that process.

Mental health days would operate in the same way that normal sick days do. Students would be able to take a certain number of excused absences each semester due to mental health or illness. Bills in Oregon and Utah have recently been passed that allow students to take these excused mental health days. Under the new law, students can have up to five absences excused in a three-month period, with any more than that requiring a doctor’s note.

On the other hand, people may think that students should not have mental health days. There are some who believe that students will abuse the policy, falsely citing mental health as a reason to stay home or skip school. This will likely happen, but the positive change that mental health days can bring far outweighs the negative of a few students missing school. Similarly, there are concerns that it will allow students, ill or not, to miss too many days of school. Personal health should always be greatly prioritized over schoolwork. Students need to be healthy first, their studies should come second. Some may believe that mental illness among teens is not a priority. In reality, teen suicides have increased almost 50% since 2000, according to an article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2018. That is a fact. No amount of ignorance can make it untrue.

At the end of the day, students need to be able to have time, even if it is only a few days, to recover and heal when dealing with mental illness. Many adults and administrators don’t understand the stress that students are under. That being said, mental wellbeing is not a privilege, but an inalienable human right. Ultimately, mental health days will prove vital to students’ health and happiness. The positive change that mental health days can bring about is invaluable, and as a result should be implemented by the LT administration. If you or anyone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts or actions, call the national prevention hotline at 800-273-8255.