Unsigned: Let Our Minds Heal

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There is no doubt that high school is a high-stress environment for students. At Conestoga, with honors classes being the norm, constant competition with peers and the pressure to attend a prestigious university, it is nearly impossible not to be crushed by a wave of stress when walking through the doors of the school.  When...

There is no doubt that high school is a high-stress environment for students. At Conestoga, with honors classes being the norm, constant competition with peers and the pressure to attend a prestigious university, it is nearly impossible not to be crushed by a wave of stress when walking through the doors of the school. 

When students are crippled by anxiety or plagued by a lack of motivation, having a productive day of learning at school isn’t in the cards. So, some students call in sick to recover mentally, but use their limited number of absences to do so.

What can the State of Pennsylvania do to help? Instead of having a slew of absences on transcripts, the state legislature needs to revisit its given number of absences and consider both the mental and physical health of students. This means setting aside a certain number of absent days for students to use for mental health when necessary.

In June 2021, State Senator Judy Schwank proposed Senate Bill 506, which requests for two days of absence for mental health per semester with a parent’s allowance for students K-12. While two days is a good start, in a school year of roughly 180 days, a mere two days per semester cannot sufficiently aid students’ mental health. 

According to “The New York Times,” over the past few years, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Virginia have passed legislation allowing absences in school for “mental or behavioral health reasons.” This action proves that mental health days are crucial, especially in high schools like the pressure cooker that is Conestoga. School is important, yes, but students’ health needs must be prioritized — and that includes mental health.

The Suicide Prevention Research Center states, “Mental health problems can affect a student’s energy level, concentration, dependability, mental ability and optimism, hindering performance.” These existing problems have only been aggravated by the additional stress caused by the  COVID-19 pandemic.

As a student, I can see the positive effects of mental health days on both myself and my friends. We lose ourselves in school and extracurriculars, forgetting to check in with one another and isolating ourselves until we reach a breaking point. When I took a day to recharge, I caught my breath — mentally — and reconnected with my friends who had also been running on empty.

A mental health day can mean healing by going for a walk, reading a book, getting some rest or anything else that charges one’s battery. It’s better to have a student who is functioning and actively learning than a student who can’t participate or retain information because of their struggling mental state. The State of Pennsylvania needs to follow the example of other states that have implemented legislation allowing the mental health days students need to recover.


The Spoke Editorial Board voted unanimously in favor of this article.

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