Midwest Schools to Accommodate Students’ Mental Health Needs


Photo by Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

Students feeling overworked can lead to resentment towards school.

Schools in the United States are developing new ways to aid students in their mental health. Certain districts will allow students to use up to five excused absences for personal improvement days. Absences are usually excused when a note from a doctor is provided, but these mental health days are valid without the note. 

By January 2022, our neighboring state,  Illinois will be initiating this plan for students ages seven to 17. Their reasoning is to destigmatize taking care of mental and behavioral health. By showing students their minds are just as important as academics, schools are confirming the importance of self care. This new plan may pique the interest of Mehlville students and staff. Should our district consider implementing these absence excuses?

In the 2021-2022 school year, Mehlville has added two new positions to the counseling staff. Their office is room 205 in the social studies hallway. Alex Phillips, Mehlville Social Emotional Learning Coach and Patricia Radcliffe, Family Support Clinician shared some of their views on the importance of mental health.        

 “These days could be used as time for self care which could look a lot of different ways” she adds, “Self care isn’t just about avoidance or treating yourself, it could also be used for checking things off of our to-do list or getting rest,” Phillips said.

She expresses interest, but worries misuse would be an issue.

“A mental health day is not helpful when it’s used to avoid tough stuff. Sometimes when we’re feeling anxious we tend to avoid things that are causing us stress, but that will usually make it worse,” said Phillips.

She also worries that mental health days would make it easier for students in crisis to fly under the radar and silently suffer.

Patricia Radcliffe has a very similar take on the situation concerning misuse. She also voices concerns for younger students.

“It could definitely have some pros and cons much like everything does. I would like to know who is making the decision to stay home for the younger students when they might need a mental health day,” said Radcliffe.

A senior who wishes to remain anonymous shared their thoughts on mental health days, and whether they would feel cared for.

“After COVID school, I think lots of students could feel overwhelmed by the work or even the human interaction alone.” They continued, “I know from firsthand experience that anxiety makes schoolwork so much harder to complete. A day at home would be beneficial I think.”

When misuse was brought up, they said,

“You can’t pass up an opportunity for students just because a group of people will use them wrong. Students misuse bathroom passes, but we are still allowed bathroom breaks. This shouldn’t be different.”

With students and staff using their voices on this issue, Mehlville could be on the same track as Illinois in the future.