Should Mental Health Days be Excused?


Jane McGuiggin, Staff Writer

Amidst the rise of mental health concerns, many believe Scituate High School should offer students mental health days as an excused absence to accommodate their health needs. On the other side of the spectrum, some are worried that students may take advantage of this offer and use mental health as an excuse to take the day off. 

Scituate High School’s adjustment counselor Jennifer Lopes helps students with issues ranging from school-related stress to more serious mental health issues. Lopes said she has “multiple students per day that stop by for a break, as do the other school counselors and nurses.” She also mentioned “there are certain students that take, and families that allow for their children to take mental health days.” According to Lopes, with the attendance policy, a single day’s absence—which could be a mental health day–can be excused (without punishment or penalty) with a written note.

When asked if students would benefit from mental health days, SHS school psychologist Stephen Howley said “[he doesn’t] believe most students would benefit from excused mental health days” because it “would lead to an increase in avoidance behaviors, which is a negative coping skill.” Howley acknowledged “there are exceptions to every rule,” but he doesn’t think an excused absence policy for all students would be beneficial.

When a mental health issue arises during the school day, Lopes said SHS has resources to help: “If a student needs a mental health break during the school day, please see me, Mrs. Clancy, a school counselor, or the nurse.” Lopes said these professionals “are happy to give you space to chill, or an opportunity to chat.”

Howley added that “having at least one class that is enjoyable and low-stress is helpful.” This helps students take a moment to breathe while not getting caught behind in work. He agrees with Lopes, commenting, “There’s also plenty of support through administration, the nurse, and school counseling, etc.”

The debate of whether or not mental health days should be excused is ongoing; however, there are various resources at SHS for students who need help getting through the school day.