Mental health absences should be available for students

Izzy Manzo — Photo editor

N.Y. legislators are considering passing a bill that would file mental and behavioral health issues as excused absences; should it pass, they will join Oregon and Utah as states that allow students to take off school in the name of mental health.

N.Y. senator Brad Hoylman, who is sponsoring the bill, said, “We need to recognize suicide and self-harm among young New Yorkers as the major public health crisis
that it is, demolish stigma around mental health care and do everything within our power to help kids who are struggling [to] seek treatment.”

As a person who struggled to seek treatment as a kid as well now as an adult I really appreciate this. While I am not here to advocate on behalf of every mentally ill person out there, I do not think I would be the only one to say that often, depressive episodes and anxiety attacks are handled alone.

Explaining the emotions behind and the reason to, for example, leave class to take a ten minute bathroom break runs the risk of being told it is all made up.

My first therapist ever, after all, chalked up my mix of mental illnesses to not being outside enough. She told me to get some fresh air. I did and unsurprisingly, was still depressed.

I am embarrassed to tell my professors about my mental illnesses. I have no way to get a note from a psychiatrist and no therapist to vouch for me; all  I am armed with is an excuse and a sliver of hope that my teacher will not immediately dismiss me as someone trying to weasel their way out of class for the day. To my immediate memory, out of all my professors I have ever had, only three of them know I am mentally ill.

Of those three, only one took me seriously and offered me help and accommodations when I needed it. The entire time, I felt like a fraud.

I do not know why — clearly, I am not lying. I think it boils down to the fact that society essentially chalks up taking mental health days as taking the easy way out. People spend their entire lives being told mental illness is just in their heads and that they will not be ready for the pressures of the “real world.” Having schools — and not only schools, but entire states — recognize sometimes people need mental health days to recuperate is revolutionary.

People are not faking mental illness under the guise of a personal day to get out of class; people need mental health days because there are days when they cannot get out of bed. Sometimes, having breakfast or brushing your hair is too much of a strenuous task.For some people, these laws might be the first time in their lives that they feel validated for not having the energy to brush their teeth.

Some days are better than others. Statistically speaking, that also means some days are worse than others.

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