School-Wide Mental Health Days Should be Adopted


Claire Chan

Students would benefit greatly from mental health days, which gives students time to relieve their stress and enjoy themselves. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and Portola High should encourage this idea among students through a newly-implemented system similar to Northwood High’s “State of the Student” day.

Feeling burnt out, hopeless and discouraged. As stress and anxiety continue to overwhelm high schoolers, the idea of schools offering mental health days is as appealing as ever.

Portola High should consider implementing an annual official mental health day, consisting of school-wide activities that encourage support among students and staff, to allow students to replenish their energy and mental well-being.

The issue of mental health is pertinent: 70% of teenagers reported that anxiety and depression were major problems among their peers in a 2019 Pew Research Center survey. Students face stress not only from a competitive academic environment but also from other social issues such as bullying or family troubles. 

“We all understand that the stress can be pretty real,” junior Ian Yoon said. “It could have a direct impact on our future, and we’re all in some ways stressed about that process. I think that by realizing that through a mental health day, we could realize and understand and empathize with students a little more.”

Northwood High’s annual “State of the Student” day uses a modified schedule in which both teachers and students collaborate to host activities that focus on mental health, according to IUSD Board of Education President Lauren Brooks. This includes dodgeball, pickleball, a mural chalk wall and a scavenger hunt, according to the Northwood PTSA.

Creating a school-wide mental health day similar to Northwood High could provide a valuable opportunity for students to experience time away from stressors. Portola High should utilize this approach to check in with and improve the mental health of the student body; studies have shown that offering mental health days can improve student performance after they have had time to reset their states of mind, according to Verywell Mind

“Empowered accountability means that we want certain outcomes, but we’re empowering you to make those outcomes come in the realm of how your community wants to work it,” Brooks said. “Mental health and the health of each student is very, very important. It’s up to your school to do what’s right for your school’s community.”

Once implemented, the day can help remove stigma around the topic of mental health and open discussion about students’ mental well-being. Families can have more conversations about their children’s mental needs and strive to support them in all aspects of their health.

While mental health days offer time for recharging, some may contend that the system is a way for students to evade their responsibilities entirely, skipping lectures and assignments, according to Forbes Magazine

However, Portola High can mitigate the problem of student accountability on mental health days through a regulated modified schedule, requiring attendance but taking off the academic pressure of a normal school day. 

“Mental health affects everybody, whether it’s you personally or the life of somebody you know,” mental health specialist Gabrielle Lautfey said. “Everybody needs to take some time and kind of just regroup, no one is just doing perfectly fine all the time and if they’re claiming they are, something’s wrong. We all go through ups and downs and that’s very typical.”

Portola High’s official adoption of the modified schedule system will send a greater message to students across campus: nurturing mental health is a number one priority.