When we’re super-stressed, many of us grumble that we need to blow off work and take a “mental health day.” Sometimes we say it in jest, but other times we seriously long for a day or two when no one makes any demands on us. We may fantasize about a long bike ride on the local trail, a damn-the-calories lunch with a friend, or, as a former housemate of mine once put it, “some time to just sit and stare.”
Now, kids want some emotional breathing room, too. Spearheaded by high school students and supported by some influential adults, a movement is underway to mandate a limited number of mental health days as part of a public school’s official sick-day policy. In the last two years, state legislatures in Oregon and Utah have passed such bills, while lawmakers in California, Florida, New York, Colorado, and Washington state are considering statutes on emotional relief days for students. Until now, excused absences have typically been limited to a student’s or family member’s physical illness, a doctor or dentist appointment, or an emergency.
It sounds pretty reasonable: everyone needs occasional days to chill out and recharge, including kids. But are student mental health days really a good idea?
What we know for sure is that many young people today suffer serious emotional distress, and that the number of struggling children is rising steeply. In 2017, the National Survey of Drug Use and…