Arizona State Senate bill to make school excused absences include mental health days

Arizona students are getting some mental health relief during their pandemic homeschooling.

Mental health days are now included as excused absences for kindergarten to high school students, according to SB1444,  a bill sponsored by State Sen. Sean Bowie and passed by the Arizona State Senate and House minority and majority Caucus.

“An absence for a mental health reason is the same as an absence for any other reason that is currently outlined in law,” Bowie said.

Mental Health Days

Missing school does not objectively seem to be the best way for helping a student. However, when used properly, a mental health day can be highly beneficial. Taking a day to relax allows a “recharge” when feeling overwhelmed by classes and a chance to re-evaluate a situation. The days off also decrease the taboo and often stigmatized subject of mental health. “Social stigma and discrimination can make mental health problems worse and stop a person from getting the help they need,” said BetterHealth.gov.

Children and Teenagers

Mental health has been an arising problem amongst young individuals. Between 2007 and 2012, anxiety amongst kids and teens has risen, according to the National Institutes of Health. In Arizona, depression amongst high schoolers in 2017 was 36 percent, higher than the national average of 31 percent. Overall, Arizona remains in 28th place for national mental health care.

As children and teens are stuck inside for school and the little resources are taken, stress can be heightened.

“To a kid, it feels like they are being punished,” a local radio host said when discussing the subject.

It is important for parents to pay attention to any signs of stress a child may exhibit.

Affecting Quarantine

Passed during Arizona’s stay-at-home order, the bill could not have as much effect. Going to school serves as a barrier between work and home life. As families stay at home, school life merges with home.

Escaping from the stressors of school can be difficult when already in a place that is meant to be a safe place. Productivity can also worsen for students already depressed and forced into online classes, which takes a certain level of commitment and self-discipline.

However, established routines are very important when a structure has been shaken for students and parents alike.

“Lay down a schedule. It doesn’t have to be hour-by-hour but have something so everyone in the house has a concept of what they’re doing,” Ashlea Taylor, an Arizona family therapist, said. Designated workspaces ease the transition between work and home. Furthermore, workspaces allow the mind to focus on the task at hand easier and give a sense of escape when not there.

Getting Help

Nobody could have predicted the effects of coronavirus, so everyone will feel somewhat uneasy. Schools may be closed for students, but the resources are still available including aid for mental health. At Glendale Community College, for example, counseling sessions are still available by appointment. If school counseling is not an option, many digital alternatives exist. A good way to stay healthy physically is to stay safe mentally too.