Scheduled "Mental Health" days becoming more common in schools

Posted at 7:58 AM, Nov 04, 2021

It may not be long before your child has a scheduled mental health day in their school calendar.

Districts in Virginia and North Carolina, as well as across the country, are starting to add periodic days off in response to the mental stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law allowing schools to excuse the absences of students who took the day off for a reason related to mental or behavioral health.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says it's behind these changes.

"Embracing mental health days by schools helps normalize the conversation around mental health, which leads to understanding to empathy and more willingness to seek help when when you need it," said Barb Solish, the Director of Youth and Young Adult Initiatives for NAMI.

Solish says parents can start conversations with their children about mental health days by comparing it to taking a break when a person isn't physically feeling well. They can do the same for their emotional well-being.

If a child receives a mental health day, she says there's not perfect way to use it, but Solish also suggests being intentional with it.

"You can explore activities your child might find calming like taking a walk or spending time in nature, playing a card game reading or listening to a book drawing baking really whatever works for them," she said. "Don't feel like you have to over schedule the day or push your kids to talk about their feelings all day."

Solish says parents can also be an example for prioritizing mental health.

She suggests eating and sleeping well in addition to making time for exercise and relaxation.

Related: Why mental health resources are needed in Hampton Roads schools