In December, United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy put out an urgent health advisory. He warned that children’s mental health was in crisis. He asked for help from many different sources, including schools.
Schools help protect kids’ mental health in many ways. Some states let kids take mental health days. In August 2021, the New York Times reported that in the previous two years, eight states had passed bills allowing kids to stay home for “mental or behavioral health reasons.”
Should schools offer mental health days? Some students say yes. They’re advocating for time off school so they can rest, recharge, and tend to their mental well-being. Other kids say no. They worry that students will take advantage of the offer, or be negatively affected by taking time off.
We asked TIME for Kids readers to weigh in on this important issue. Here’s what six of you had to say.
Bibi van Tooren, 11
San Diego, California
Schools should give kids days off for mental health, because mental health is an important part of overall health. In fact, it is just as important as physical health. If you don’t feel 100%, it will have a big impact on your ability to focus. Kids get stressed with long school days, and school can cause a lot of anxiety and tension. Plus, kids don’t have much experience dealing with mental health crises.
Nugg Canales, 8
Kids should get mental health days off from school. Sometimes, we need to stay home and play games to calm our minds. Some schools don’t allow music, and I have days where I need calming music to make me feel good about me and the world. If you take a mental health day, you should not have to make up work because it adds stress to your life.
Sofia Ascencio, 10
Los Angeles, California
Schools should give kids days off for mental health. A lot of students have felt a difference in their mental health since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when they were away from friends and family. Now that they are back in school, many students have developed feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety because of the load of homework and schoolwork that’s being put on them. Mental health days would help students reset, relax, and refresh. Then they would be able to come back to school ready to learn.
Hailey Young, 12
The weekend was created to give us time off, but people don’t take advantage of those 48 hours. We children need to learn to better manage our time. We barely get our schoolwork done in the five work days we get. Plus, schools would need students to make up mental health days. They would probably do so during our real breaks: summer, winter, or spring. Another thing is that, for some kids, school might be their safe haven. Home might be scary or stressful for them. A mental health day might end up being more stressful than school.
Jeremin Roy Itticheria, 10
Des Plaines, Illinois
Stress is increasing in kids because of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and pollution. A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that between March and October 2020, there was a 24% increase in the number of mental health emergency-room visits by kids ages 5 to 11. Stress is on the rise for kids today. Mental health days would give kids a break and a chance to make up their schoolwork without being penalized for taking time off. And they might have time to get the professional help they need.
Johnny Gabel, 9
St. Louis, Missouri
I don’t think schools should give students days off for their mental health. Having too many days off can affect grades. And many people’s parents have to go to work. If students get too many days off, they might get left home too much. This could make some people’s mental health issues worse. I know some kids have serious mental health challenges. Those students could take breaks between subjects. There could also be services to improve their mental health and help them in school.
This is our last debate of the school year. Do you have questions you’d like kids to debate in the fall? Email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.