I can’t speak for anybody else, but just about every day that I’ve had to get up before I was ready has made me feel sad and depressed as the sun came up. From the age of 6, when I first started school, to, well, this morning, my first thought has always been, “I could sleep another hour. Maybe two.”
It was the worst during junior high and high school years. I hated school with a burning passion and the thought of having to spend what seemed like an eternity with all those other kids just about did me in.
I would have given anything to be able to take a mental health day off. You know, a day off to recharge my battery and get my head straight. And no, Saturday and Sunday didn’t count. Or three full months of summer. I needed a day off when I wasn’t supposed to have a day off.
Well, now students in Oregon will have the right to take a “mental health day” off and not have it count against their attendance. Students themselves had lobbied for this “right” and whoever is in the government in Oregon put it on a bill and it passed.
Now, you can’t not show up and then return the next day and carry on. It has to be an excused absence, which I guess means either a note from the parents or even a doctor if the monsters in your head are getting loud enough.
Oregon follows Utah who passed such a law last year and, as far as I can tell, hasn’t had any problems with it. Some of the students in Oregon who lobbied for it said they had the idea after recent school shootings and reports of students needing mental health care to get through it.
Well, if you had to survive something where some of your fellow students were mowed down by a madman, then I’m pretty sure nobody’s going to question you missing a day here or there. I’m sure most of those schools even provided mental health care professionals to help students talk about it.
But I remember those long ago school days to know that just the act of having to go to school can put you down for the count. I can remember having panic attacks at times over having to go to school, though I didn’t know at 12 what a panic attack was. I just felt like I was going to throw up and that probably meant I was getting sick and needed to stay home.
And I didn’t have enough knowledge to realize the reason I got to feeling better as the school day wound down was because the reason for my anxiety was winding down and I was going to be free to either run around the neighborhood on my bicycle or lie on the floor watching TV and reading, depending on the time of year and the weather.
There were times during my elementary school years, which back then was K-6, when I’d go a whole year without missing a day and get a nice little certificate at the end for my efforts. Other kids would miss a day here and there, though some, at the end of the year, would have 25-30 days missed. I always wondered if they got into any trouble for those missed days, but nothing ever seemed to happen to them.
It wasn’t until my high school years that I began to take my own self-mandated mental health days off. I returned to school for my senior year, but because it had been decided somewhere along the line I might be mentally dull, I was sent to vocational school, which then was just a dumping ground for “those kids.” That meant taking a bus ride to Madisonville every day, and I simply wasn’t doing that.
At first I just walked out the door at lunch time and went home, or somewhere. Eventually I just stopped going to school period, hanging out at Engleman Park until 3 p.m. rolled around and I made my way home. Eventually, I got a phone call and somebody told me if I wasn’t coming back, I needed to come in and sign some papers. That was all it took to quit school in those days.
Will some kids abuse these mental health days? Oh, go ahead and chuckle at such a silly question. I’m sure parents will get used to asking, “Just how many days off do you need?”
But if it helps just one kid “get his head right” instead of picking up a gun, I think most of us will be okay with it.