In the New York City school system, which has more than 1 million students, a day off for mental or behavioral health reasons “would be treated like any other sick day,” said Nathaniel Styer, a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Education.
The phrase “mental health day” can make some kids and parents uncomfortable. With that in mind, the school board in Montgomery County, Maryland, has decided that beginning the new school year, it will issue an apology for absences due to “student illness and welfare.”
“We didn’t want to call it a mental health day because we know there’s still a stigma around that,” Karla Silvestre, the vice president of the school board, told Education Week in June.
Schools are also experimenting with methods other than mental health days to help students cope with their daily stressors. The Jordan School District in South Jordan, Utah, uses “well-being areas” where students can relax for 10 minutes if they feel overwhelmed. And some Colorado schools have created “oasis rooms,” a student lounge with peer counselors and other resources.
Melanie Zhou, 19, who attended high school in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, teamed up with other students to create the oasis rooms after a friend died by suicide.
“When my friend died, I had no idea how to grieve properly,” she said.
Like Ben, Melanie believed that education was the priority at her school, not self-care. And at home, “mental health was not talked about very clearly or openly,” she added.
One benefit of declaring a “mental health day” and recognizing its importance at the state level is that – ideally – using this type of language can help families have more open conversations about topics related to mental health. , and possibly some of the stigma associated with self-care, Ms Rothman said.