Why ETHS needs to implement mental health days


Illustrated by Saskia Teterycz

Maddie Coyle, Opinion Editor

As high school students, we all experience varying degrees of stress. Regardless of the specifics, though, it’s clear that the amount of activities, work and outside responsibilities placed on our shoulders is immense. We have to balance all other varying commitments and only have so much time to accomplish it all. This combination of obligations can be too much for us, and it can result in an unhealthy mindset. On top of that. having other stressors outside school is all too common.

Across the country, schools have recognized the stress and unhealthy practices of high school students. To ease the weight we feel, some schools have implemented mental health days. These are days in which students can get excused absences in order to improve their mental health. It gives students a much-needed break from the stress and work they experience daily. To better the lives of ETHS students, the school should implement mental health days.

High school is a formative time in any young person’s life. By constantly pushing us to do and be better, we are overloading our bodies and minds. Doing that for too long results in burnout that leaves people lacking motivation later in life. The increased demand of high school course loads—along with other activities such as sports and clubs—along with familial struggles, are all increasingly difficult to balance, especially for people at such a young age. Sometimes, this pressure to succeed becomes our downfall. And we should not be burdened by the stress and weight of academic pressure that leads to premature burnout at age 30.

There are only 16 days in the ETHS calendar school year that we can take off and still be eligible to move up to the next grade. That means there are only 16 days where a person can get sick, be late or be given a break. However, we are still expected to make up coursework, adding even more work to already busy and stressful lives. Everyone needs a break, especially students. Oftentimes, it feels like summer or holidays cannot come soon enough. Weekends hardly feel effective because, half of the time, you are doing homework. Six days working with maybe one day off is not enough. By implementing mental health days, the pressure we feel as students will be decreased, and the weight of our heavy workload will be eased.

Studies have shown that students who are given more breaks are more productive overall. According to Psychology Today, since there is less demand and constant concentration, breaks and days off open a student’s mind to being happy and healthy. That break can revitalize us in the moment and help us succeed more in the following school days once it is over. It will also benefit mental health by giving us time where we do not have to worry about trying to balance all our demands. We can just have fun. Even one day could drastically improve the lives of students and our mental health.

And these days are proven to be beneficial. The Harvard Business Review writes that when people are overworked and exhausted, they are more likely to make mistakes, are less productive and are more prone to health problems. However, taking a day off can lessen those effects. The World Health Organization states that healthier environments are seen when mental health is acknowledged and worked to improve. With mental health days, we would see these benefits represented across our student body by acknowledging mental health and giving us a break to decrease symptoms of overwork and exhaustion.

This decision would come with some costs. If ETHS students are going to be as mentally healthy as possible, then teachers have to be willing to be more understanding and flexible with their assignments. Yet, it would be worth it. Across the school, people would be more enjoyable and have slightly less stress, making those extra days not as much of a burden or pain as they would be without the mental health days.

Currently, mental health days are even more of a necessity. With the shift to online learning, and having to enter a new year with a new system, there are other added stressors. COVID-19 has had a major impact on all of our lives and resulted in a lot of added stress. I have also noticed that most of my teachers have been assigning extra work on top of what they normally would assign to compensate for the lack of time we are spending together in class. We are spending all day on Zoom and then spending all night doing homework. Therefore, with the added stress of COVID-19 and the additional workloads, a day where we can take off to focus on our mental wellbeing is much needed. Even though Mondays can occasionally provide such an effect, we are still expected to do work and many clubs and activities still meet on Mondays. All of that with COVID-19 and e-learning is a lot to handle.

“Online learning, in my opinion, has caused more people to be struggling with mental health. You are most likely stuck with the same people everyday and have been doing the same things for quite a while now. Now, more than ever, people are being affected by depression and anxiety, and this is a time for extra support,” says Student Representative Carmiya Bady. “The average person probably doesn’t have clinical depression but has bad days that are overwhelming and might need a break sometimes, and mental health days to lean on would be a big benefit and relieve much stress for students.”

By giving us a couple of extra days off for our mental health, the school would greatly improve our lives, as well as the quality of our work. We would feel less pressure and be given an option if the weight of coursework becomes too much to bear. These days would be much-needed breaks for us and give us the time we need to relax and recuperate before being thrust back into school. These days are also known to improve student productivity, meaning higher test scores and better rankings for the school.

Students with a couple of days off may experience better mental health and better scores. We would be happier and healthier people. It would make school more enjoyable for us by decreasing stress levels. Right now, most see school as an anxiety inducing activity; in the time of COVID-19, these stressors are even greater. But, by giving us that extra day to manage all our emotions from our demanding coursework, we will thrive in multiple ways. It would be a major improvement to the school community and student body. It would make ETHS a better place for everyone, which is something that everyone—teachers, parents, administrators and students—can get behind.