Students Are Taking Mental Health Days Now

The United States has a staggering number of mental health issues among children and adolescents. 

Prevalence in our most vulnerable population is only growing as children look to their authority figures for answers. 

Public health officials have differing views on how to end the epidemic, but one trend may not be the remedy everyone had hoped for. 

It used to be that a student had to be ill to miss a day of school. In recent days it seems that almost any excuse will do, such as extending a vacation, taking the day to visit with extended family, or they just didn’t feel like attending. 

A new bill will open up a debate over mental health and school attendance by allowing students to miss classes when they feel burdened by their mental illness. 

USA Today reports:

Public school students would be allowed to cite the need for a mental health day as an excuse to miss school, under a bill filed in the Florida Legislature for the 2020 session. The proposal is part of a growing movement in multiple states aimed at improving students’ mental well-being.”

Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, sees mental health sickness on par with physical sickness and thinks you should be able to be absent for either one.

Valdes says “It is time for us to take mental health as a whole more seriously,” reports USA Today. She continues by stating that many children and adolescents today are under increasing pressure.

The bill will start small. Students won’t have the ability to abuse the mental health excuse, because Florida HB 315 will only allow one such day per semester.

Just as in all other absences the parents would have to provide a written note explaining that the student was suffering from a mental illness that hindered them from attending school that day. 

New York jumped on board with a similar proposal last month. 

Areas in Oregon, Utah, and Virginia already have bills in place that support taking a mental health day. 

Valdes wrote the proposal, along with a Hillsborough County school board member, to help eliminate the stigma on mental health. 

She says:

“I hope Florida will join those states in being at the forefront of overhauling how we view mental health in our society.” 

Other Florida bills that are hoping to get passed in the upcoming session also have a focus on mental health, but provide a more solution-based outline. 

One bill aims to get filters installed on all public school water systems to remove the lead from children’s drinking water. 

Another, SB 432, would require that all public high school kids become certified in CPR.

A third proposal would give permission for school employees to make food pantry programs so students can be provided food at no cost, just as in Tennessee, as Mommy Underground has previously reported.

While the mental health bill sounds supportive, the practicality of a student benefitting from such a bill is slim.

They would have to have a supportive parent who could also stay home with them to work on whatever mental illness ails them, and the coping tools available to move forward out of crisis. 

It seems more productive to seek solutions for the root cause of the mental illness and to provide the student with effective ways to manage the illness. 

Being able to excuse yourself from an education when things are tough may not be the right approach to helping these troubled children find solace. 

There is no doubt that addressing mental illness in kids is multi-layered and an issue that won’t be resolved overnight, but finding long-term solutions is key to ending the cycle of debilitating mental illness. 

Do you think children should be able to take a mental health day?

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