Should Schools Have Mental Health Days?


Photo courtesy of American Psychological Association.

Gia Patel, General

With the growing concern about mental health, many schools are considering the addition of mental health days throughout their school calendar or excusing absences to promote wellness. Even though several parents and students support this idea, many feel as though the purpose of these days seems vague, and the response to the implementation of mental health days varies among age groups. 

Parents of younger children (mainly elementary and middle school students) contemplate whether wellness days would be beneficial or necessary. To better explain when mental health days could be needed, the Child Mind Institute outlined the following examples:

  • When your child is feeling overwhelmed
  • Something upsetting or embarrassing happened at school
  • They just finished a big, difficult assignment. For example, a long paper or a big test that required a lot of studying
  • They are feeling anxious, sad, or stressed
  • Something is happening at home that is adding stress, like the illness or loss of a loved one, the death of a pet, a big move, or a divorce

While situations like these would be reasonable days to stay at home, the concern of exploiting mental health days would still remain an issue as younger students may beg to skip out on school without an overlying reason. Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist, advocates for mental health days, but suggests that “parents need to be conscious of making sure kids aren’t using them to avoid schoolwork. This isn’t because you want to get an extension on a paper or miss a test — then it’s just a procrastination day.” Bubrick also stresses that during mental health days, students need to “be thinking about that day in a mental health way” by participating in activities such as

  • Taking a walk outside, or spending time in nature
  • Baking, drawing, painting, or other activities that your child finds calming
  • Taking some time to practice mindfulness activities
  • Exercising
  • Listening to music or reading a book (or listening to an audiobook)


Contrary to younger students who look forward to staying home, many high school students have busy and stressful schedules, and they find that missing a day has more downsides than benefits. While 61.5% of high schoolers are impacted by stress, only 26.1% have taken a mental health day due to the fear of falling behind. The implementation of mental health days is heavily focused on high schools since wellness days would allow teens to catch a break from schoolwork stress, deadlines, and social pressures; it would also provide time for rest, reflection, and recharging. Moreover, raising awareness of the mental health of adolescents may aid in alleviating the stigma surrounding mental health. 


Along with high schoolers, college students find it difficult to take mental health days when they are constantly living in a school environment. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had scheduled a few wellness days for students last year as well as for the current academic year. In a message to students and families, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz made it clear that “instructors may not hold class, administer tests or other assessments, collect papers or assign new work” on wellness days. Following the March 2021 wellness days, first-year student Rachel Reynolds said wellness days didn’t feel like a break at all due to the work she had to complete for the upcoming days. Similar to Rachel, Senior Erin Walsh expresses, “Even on these days off, it’s very hard to escape the university atmosphere and everything I need to do for classes.” Although these college students remained focused on schoolwork rather than taking the day to relax, they were still able to take personal time off and catch up on work without worrying about going to class and new assignments. The university remains open to feedback and encourages students to reach out with concerns in order to make wellness days a valuable experience. Although a fairly new idea, mental health days may likely be seen across that nation in the future as student health, stress, and academic pressure continue to be a growing concern.