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December 4, 2020

Should School Districts Encourage a Mental Health Day?

GoGuardian Team

Students often face tough challenges when they realize they have mental health issues. It gets worse when they cannot figure out the cause of the problem. Numerous factors may be attributed to the changes students go through, including changes in lifestyle, relationship issues, family problems, academic pressure, and sometimes financial challenges.

According to NAMI, diet, sleep, and exercise patterns can make the situation better or worse, but that is affected by how well a student can handle themself individually.

Addressing Mental Health Issues Could Lead to Improved Performance in School

There has been a significant decline in mental health among American youth. It was established that between 2005 and 2014, the chances of students—and adolescents by extension—experiencing waves of depression rose by up to 37 percent. During the pandemic, the problem has only gotten worse. Mental illness has a significant impact on both school performance and quality of life. Parents and teachers must work together to create an environment that is conducive to improving the situation.

Students need hope, and by providing a mental health day, schools continue to recognize the value of addressing mental health issues. This is not only for academic purposes but also to help students attain their dreams of a brighter future.

Here, we explore why school districts should encourage the provision of mental health services and their direct or indirect impact on students’ academic performance.

The Present

In recent years, school systems face unprecedented problems, such as children having to deal with social media and its dangers. There is an acute need for schools to find efficient ways to address the rapidly increasing cases of depression and teen suicides. The CDC reported that the suicide rate for male youth aged 15-19 rose by a whopping 31 percent since 2007, and that change was significantly higher for females.

Several states have launched school counseling programs and have psychologists as part of the school staff. It is unfortunate, though, that so far only Virginia and New York states have mandated that schools incorporate mental health education in their curriculum. The primary goal of this intervention is to increase student understanding of mental health issues. By starting when kids are young and teaching them to recognize symptoms early, we can prevent bigger issues from emerging as they get older.

We also have special tools like GoGuardian BeaconⓇ to help learners who are dealing with mental health issues. It is a tool designed to help K-12 schools identify signs of and prevent student self-harm and suicide.

Factors Contributing to Mental Health Issues and Poor Academic Performance

Several things can cause mental health problems; below are the four main contributors to the mental health epidemic and its associated below-par academic performance.

Social Media

Lately, teens are spending too much time on screens. One study revealed that kids and teens spend roughly eight hours a day on social media. Children may no longer physically spend time with their peers or play outdoor sports outside of organized leagues; instead, most of their time is spent online on different social media sites.

Online posts and remarks can sometimes have devastating effects on teens, leading to low self-esteem and heartbreaking relationship issues. There is some evidence that technology could be working against emotional development, and that is where the need for acquiring citizenship skills among students comes into play.

Pressure to Succeed

Students do not have the life experience to make mature long-term decisions. Understandably, they may feel overwhelmed when tasked with choosing career paths for themselves or selecting a college to attend. Parents and teachers may burden children beyond their capabilities, albeit unknowingly. In return, teenagers bow to the pressure of unrealistic expectations. Anxiety and depression may both be caused by this perceived “push” from teachers, parents, peers, or even social media and society at large.

Lack of Adequate Sleep

Lack of sleep is a common problem among many youths, and that adversely affects their mental health. It leads to poor academic performance and underdeveloped decision-making skills. Social media and the availability of open entertainment channels keep students awake for long periods throughout the night. Additionally, blue light from screens can disrupt circadian rhythms, meaning that even after devices are shut off, sleep may prove elusive.

In a survey carried out among high school students in the United States, close to 88 percent sleep for less than the recommended eight hours per night. While some are engaged in online conversations, games, and YouTube videos, others have tight schedules that limit their sleep time.

Sleep deprivation can increase the risk of mental health issues, lead to poor student engagement in the classroom, and contribute to low grades in the end. If not taken care of in the early stages, these mental health problems could lead students to develop suicidal thoughts.

Lack of Exercise

It is quite unfortunate that, deep into the 21st century, many schools still do not prioritize physical education. In 2016, a study carried out by Colorado State University made a damning revelation. Ninety-one percent of learners between the ages of 16 and 19 do not engage in daily physical exercise.

There is a strong link between physical and mental health. Exercise boosts self-esteem, and at the same time, increases concentration levels. It reduces anxiety and depression symptoms significantly and improves academic performance. Students would benefit from daily exercise.

How Schools Can Promote Mental Health

Counselors, teachers, and the general school staff have a significant role to play in promoting mental health within the institutions they run. Sometimes, small changes make all the difference.

Schedule Social Time

Schedule about 30-60 minutes every week to have students socialize and focus on other things away from the curriculum. Get them to intermingle and chat freely with their peers as they complete tasks together. Let them talk about their different experiences, what they love or hate, and how they’d like to have things done.

Run Break-Time Clubs

Teachers can allow students to engage in things that temporarily get their minds off the school curriculum over break time. These could be clubs or activities such as drama, debate, arts, baking, or book clubs. Such initiatives give individual students a sense of community and relieve them from school pressure, even if only momentarily.

Open the Door to Your Students

Students may not talk to their teachers or parents about particular issues for fear of judgment. It is vital to create an environment in which students can freely talk about issues affecting their mental health and well-being. Let them know that you are paying attention and that you’re willing to help where you can. To make it easy for them, share a little about your experiences, without giving too many details. That way, they’ll see your human side and hopefully find it easier to open up to you.

Organize a Mental Health Day/Week

Engage all stakeholders, and arrange a mental health awareness day (or week, if time allows). A single day could be too short to make any significant difference, but it is a good way to start the conversation and bring attention to mental health issues. A well-planned mental health day will benefit the students and the school staff, including teachers. To make it a success, consider the following:

  • Host a drama festival or sports activities.
  • Encourage students to connect.
  • Give and encourage students to give to others.
  • Be mindful by hosting sessions that deal with mindfulness.

The Verdict

There is compelling evidence to show how important it is for school districts to plan a mental health day in schools. While effective measures can be taken to ensure that students experiencing mental health issues can take care of themselves properly, professional assistance is always welcome.

Relevant authorities, such as school boards, need to take proactive measures to develop institutions that make mental health education part of the school curriculum.

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