OPINION: The need for a ‘Brain Break’

By Angelina Scalici, Apprentice Editor

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As a student with a job, advanced classes and extracurriculars, I find it extremely hard to stay on top of everything that needs to be done. I have an internal battle with myself when I feel like I need a mental health day off, but I can only have 11 absences. With the recent implementation of a stricter absence policy, it has become harder to take a day to myself and unwind from the stress that comes along with high school.

A step that West Essex should take to relieve some of this stress is offering students a set number of excused mental health days. A July 2019 report from the New York Times described how several schools across America have implemented this idea for students who also feel this way. Schools in Utah and Ore. have started treating mental health issues the same way they would treat a broken bone or virus, putting aside five excused mental health days in a three month period. They have found that letting students have these days off keeps them away from, in the reporter’s words, “quietly suffering.”

West Essex students feel that they need their school to acknowledge these issues.

“You go to school for over six hours, you have extracurriculars, and then you have three hours of homework, plus college applications that you have to submit by strict deadlines,” senior Gillian Wolf said. “Having a day off once in a while is really beneficial to being a successful student and I wish that we had the option to get these absences excused.”

According to Student Assistance Counselor Anthony Emering, West Essex encourages students to use any of their 17 discretionary absences whenever they feel the need to stay home and take a day off of school. This applies to freshmen through juniors; seniors have 11 absences before they lose senior service privileges, excused or unexcused.

Since students at West Essex do not have mental health days, they often fake sick when in need of a break. There needs to be a change that draws students away from skipping school. A large part of the student body does not have the ability to get notes from a therapist or psychiatrist. Many who aren’t feeling 100 percent do not feel the need to reach out and take this route of getting help. Taking time to oneself is not being lazy.

A New York Times article from April brought up the Dutch idea of “niksen,” or “doing nothing,” which helps the mind become more creative and helps develop fresh ideas.

Emering urges students to visit the guidance counselor’s office if they feel that their mental health is affecting their time in school.

While I am not advocating for students to take days off of school and blame it on their mental health, I am asking for breathing room that could be allocated in a few excused absences throughout the school year. There is an overwhelming amount of students who just want a breather without having to be pegged as someone who takes the easy way out.