(NewsNation) — Schools in 12 states across the nation, including Connecticut, are allowing students to take mental health days as a move to try and combat the mental health crisis kids are facing in the wake of the pandemic. The idea is spreading and is now being proposed in at least five other states.
It works like a sick day. The student’s parents would call the school to let them know their child is sick and needs to stay home. In this case, they would take the day to try to seek care if it is available in an attempt to help them cope with feelings of anxiety, stress or depression.
States with school mental health days:
According to a recent report from Verywell Mind, at least 12 states have laws in place for school districts to offer mental health as a reason for an excused absence. At least five more states — Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania — have proposals on the table.
Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows about 56% of public schools nationwide believe they could effectively provide mental health services for students, and 70% of schools reported an increase in students seeking services since the pandemic in 2020.
Clinical psychologist and trauma specialist Dr. Norman Fried praised the idea of a mental health day but said that support from the school, along with home life and level of need are factors in considering taking the day.
“Children whose parents work or who would be alone, in which case I wouldn’t want them to be experiencing a mental health day if they are really hurting and no one is there to supervise them,” Fried explained. “It varies depending upon the child’s mental wellness, ability to be on their own during a mental health day, as well as whether or not the school can provide services that will ultimately assuage and familiarize the difficulties the child is experiencing.”
The laws vary state by state, and some even require a doctor’s note. Other school districts limit the number of days students can take for mental health.
But Fried suggests that parents or guardians should listen when their child asks for help or shows signs of needing help. He also said they should have a list of people to call, such as counselors or doctors, on hand should these days come up.
In Connecticut, educators want to spread the word.
“We want the school to know and we want the parent to know, because it may be something like, ‘I’m just feeling overwhelmed and I just need a break, just to relax,'” said John Frassinelli, the education division director for the Connecticut Department of Education. “Or, it could be something more serious. And if it is something more serious, we want to make sure that the schools are aware and the parents are aware so they can communicate like what possible options are for the student.”
Those mental health days, he said, are necessary for some students. However, schools take it seriously when a student is gone.
“That’s an entire day of lost learning,” Frassinelli said. “We don’t want these to be taken lightly. If it’s necessary, they can certainly use it.”
In July, the first nationwide mental health crisis hotline went live. Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis can now access the free and confidential support service by calling or texting 988.
If you or someone you know needs help, resources or someone to talk to, you can find it at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website or by calling 1-800-273-8255. People are available to talk to 24/7.