High schoolers face a lot of stress outside the classroom that can impact their ability to stay present in class. Mental health issues among teens have skyrocketed in the past decade. While doctor’s appointments are considered excused absences, mental health is not treated the same as physical health in the school system. High schoolers are encouraged to take sick days to rest and catch up on schoolwork from home, but taking a mental health day to take care of themselves and mentally prepare to focus more on assignments is often considered school refusal. Some public schools have proposed that high schoolers should be allowed to take up to five mental health days off per semester to improve academic performance.
What are Mental Health days?
While school-related stress affects the mental health of 61.5 percent of students, only 26.1 percent of them have ever taken a mental health day. The intention behind allowing for mental health days is that teens who leave school for therapy appointments, teens who have a panic attack in the morning and show up late, and teens who have experienced significant loss or trauma that need time to grieve will have excused absences. The goal is to bridge the gap between how we treat physical and mental health. Taking a mental health day from school is a chance for teens to reset their nervous system and get out of fight-or-flight mode. It’s a break from the everyday stress of tests, deadlines, and social pressures. Plus, it provides time for rest, reflection, and recharging.
Many parents are concerned that missing classes will mean that their teen will get behind in school, reinforcing their low self-esteem and lack of motivation. Teaching children to work hard, show dedication, and always do their best is important. However, it is equally important to teach them how to listen to themselves, slow down, and recognize when they are not getting their needs met. Allowing them to take a break when overwhelmed can save them from spiraling deeper into depression.
Teen mental health days bring awareness to the challenges that today’s adolescents face and foster open dialogue about this issue. As a result, the concept of taking a mental health day from school has the potential to reduce stigma around mental illness.
How do Residential Treatment Centers Encourage Mental Health Days?
Academic programming at residential treatment centers is designed to integrate mental health education and awareness into the classroom. Qualified teachers are trained to identify signs that students are struggling and offer accommodations to better support their learning. Teachers understand that sometimes students will have therapy appointments during class or that they may need to step into the hallway when they are feeling overwhelmed and work with students to ensure that they stay caught up.
Our attitude is that mental health should be prioritized. We understand that many students who have struggled with mental health issues have had negative experiences at school, problems with attendance, and difficulty planning for their futures. Our accredited academic program prepares students for college by emphasizing experiential learning and study skills that motivate students to be enthusiastic about what they learn. Regardless of their academic performance, students struggle to feel accomplished when their mental health is compromised.
Ways to Integrate Mental Health Education into Academics
- Offer creative electives. Visual art, music, and journaling are beneficial activities for processing emotions and tapping into creativity. Electives are graded based on investment rather than quality of performance, which allows students to explore topics they find interesting without feeling as much academic pressure.
- Spend time in nature. Teens spend a large chunk of their day in indoor classrooms, which can contribute to restlessness and low energy. Teachers often suggest holding class outdoors, as spending time in nature is proven to lower the stress hormone cortisol. As a result, stress, depression, and anxiety levels go down.
- Cultivate authentic connections. Supportive, caring relationships are essential for adolescents. In small class sizes, teens have the opportunity to speak up in class and feel a sense of community with their peers. Teachers make an effort to build close relationships with students outside the classroom by offering additional academic support and college counseling. Teachers become invested in teen’s therapeutic growth by working closely with the clinical team to understand students’ needs in the classroom.
- Block schedules. As a year-round schedule with five quarters, students have the opportunity to catch up on credits, get ahead, or integrate more electives into their schedules. Classes meet for half days to make room for group therapy, therapy appointments, and study halls to help students work on their personal and academic goals. As classes meet four days a week, students have Fridays off to participate in recreation activities in the community.
Solstice RTC Can Help
Solstice West is a residential treatment program for young girls and assigned female at birth ages 14-18 who struggle with issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, and/or relationship struggles. This program provides three types of therapy: individual, group, and family therapy to allow girls and assigned female at birth to explore themselves in a variety of ways. Through groups on various topics, girls and assigned female at birth learn to become more aware of their emotions and to express them appropriately to others. Students will leave with the skills they need to transition into the world feeling confident, happy, and able to manage their emotions.
For more information, call 866-278-3345. We can help your family today!