Students in New York could get mental health days off from classes
Lawmakers in New York state are considering joining a dozen other states that allow students to take days off school for mental health.
The proposal is expected to be introduced this month in Albany. The goal is to make emotional well-being a health priority.
The stress of growing up, amplified by the isolation of the pandemic, has created a generation of depressed and anxiety-ridden youth, with suicide on the rise among people aged 15 to 24 in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diseases. . For years, adolescent specialists have warned of a mental health crisis among young people, which has been exacerbated by a year and a half of social isolation imposed by the pandemic.
In South Huntington, New York’s Long Island, Walt Whitman High School now offers students counseling at a nearby urgent care center.
“Students who maybe are struggling and might just need a day to go somewhere,” said senior Hasham Coudrey.
The state is thinking of going even further. The bill would add mental health days off from school, like sick days for a physical illness like a cold or colic.
“If parents see mental health as equal to a sick day, maybe they would allow it and it would help kids who are struggling,” said Walt Whitman High senior Eliana Kazin.
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In recent years, a dozen states have passed laws allowing students to drop out of school for mental health reasons. It’s also a growing trend in the workplace. An October survey by consultancy WTW found that 30% of employers plan to offer dedicated mental health days in the next two years, up from 9% today.
Experts who work with teenagers say mental health days in schools would open up communication with parents and could prompt life-saving intervention.
“If a child is communicating, ‘I want to have one of those mental health days,’ you now have an opportunity to not only discuss that, but you help make the conversation very natural about mental health,” Kathy Rivera said. , executive director of the North Shore Family Guidance Center.
However, not all educators feel that offering another day off from school is the most effective approach. Critics have said that simply taking a day off will not help a student address underlying issues causing distress, such as overwork, interpersonal conflicts, or a deeper, undiagnosed illness.
“It doesn’t get to the root of the problem”
“If a student stays home for a mental health day, while it may sound helpful, an extra day off doesn’t address the root of the problem. In fact, it can lead to chronic absenteeism while the problem remains hidden. Helping students cope with and resolve stressful situations is the useful and correct solution,” said Dr. Shari Camhi, superintendent of the Baldwin Union Free School District.
Teachers and administrators “want to help determine the cause of these mental health issues,” he said. “Then everyone’s mission can be to help students fix that problem. If tests or classwork are the cause of student anxiety, teachers can find a solution. Conflicts at home or interactions on social media can cause depression. and anxiety.”
Coudrey said he believes students would not benefit from the added mental health days, “especially having some kind of three-to-five day limit.”
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The State Department of Education will determine the limit of mental health days. All missed work must be made up. Plainview/Old Bethpage JFK High School has allowed them and the principal reports no abuse of the system.
“We were able to identify some students who were using more than we wanted to see, which gave us an opportunity for the assistant principal and the social worker to reach out to the family to say, what can we do to help your child?” said Principal James Murray.
Advocates say it should be for teachers, too.
“Burnout is real. I think we look at burnout as a separate category and it’s not. Burnout is the cumulative effect of how life stressors affect our overall mental health,” said Eric Kussin of the Global Mental Health Movement #SameHere .
The proposal to add mental health days has been introduced and failed in Albany for four years, but with data showing the pandemic has dramatically affected mental health, supporters say it has a new urgency.