Taking Days Off for Mental Health

Camilla Mischka, Managing Editor

Many students from Hastings High School are absent each day, but what percentage of those students are home because of sickness? Do some students take off to catch up on work or to take “a mental health day,” and are those justifiable reasons for a student to miss school?

An 11th grader at Hasting High School expressed, “I have never taken a day off from school, although I have thought about it. The reason I have not is because the thought of work piling up on me just adds stress.” 

She added, “I feel like half of the problems that I face are caused by my own actions due to stress from school. I also feel like at times I don’t know how to handle my stress, and lost that capability as Covid-19 got worse.” 

Although this 11th grader may not have taken a day off from school in order to work on herself she believes that doing so is definitely reasonable: “Everyone has their own things going on in their personal lives, and they should not have to adjust their lives to adjust to the workload.”  

Another student, Miya Frank, was asked the same question, and responded by saying, “I think sometimes between practice and just life I can’t focus after a certain point and can’t get my work done and mentally it’s just easier to take a day off to recuperate.”

Miya added, “I think it is reasonable for kids to know themselves, and when they should take a day off, in order to avoid going to school with a bad mindset.” 

In order to get a better understanding on why students are struggling so much this year, I met with the school’s social worker Ms. Repp

“I am a very big proponent of being able to acknowledge taking care of yourself. I think self care is not selfish,” said Ms. Repp.

But she wasn’t so sure that taking time off school is the answer: “We certainly know that one of the side effects of Covid is increased anxiety, and we also know that the amygdala grows during adolescence to like three times the size of what my amygdala looks like. So, it creates a natural side effect of worrying about everything all the time. If your anxiety, or your worry thoughts, create procrastination, which requires you to skip school to get your stuff done and you keep doing that then it is a symptom of a bigger issue that needs to be taken care of–that has to do with how you are doing, how you are feeling, and what behaviors you are engaged in.” 

She added, “So there are two different pieces. I think if you are kind of coasting along generally feeling good about what you do, and then you realize you’re exhausted or you’re feeling kind of defeated and in need to recharge to take care of yourself, then, yes, I am definitely a believer in taking that time. [However,] If there seems to be a pattern that you have to take a day off to get the stuff done, and you don’t change that pattern, while it might look like a good thing to do, it might be feeding an anxiety monster. I think it is always a good idea if there are people that have developed this pattern, and they must stay up all night to do work or they must take the day from school then that will require an intervention.”