Grant us mental healthy days

DeAndrea Norman , Staff Writer

Mental health was once a taboo subject and was hardly talked about. However, in 2019 mental health is now talked about more freely and honestly in communities, and the stigma and shame of having a mental illness is slowly fading away.

For years I was too ashamed to open up about the silent battles I have faced since the young age of 12: depression and crippling anxiety. Some days I couldn’t get out of bed. Instead, I stayed in bed with some fake illness to get out of going to school simply because I was too sad or anxious to go to school. I was also too ashamed to talk to anyone and I continued this cycle for years before I was able to open up about my depression and anxiety.

Even now, I still have days where it is hard for me to get out of bed and go to school or work, or even function like a normal adult. Yet, I still drag myself out of bed most days and put on a happy face and try to go about my day as normal as possible.

Depression, anxiety, suicide, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) describe the current state of the country. Every day, people, especially the younger generation, are fighting silent battles while barely being able to get out of bed.

Today, students are battling with more than stress inside of the classroom; we are also battling a war within ourselves. Taking care of our mental health is just as important as taking care of our physical health. However, it can be extremely hard to do so. It is acceptable to call out of work or miss school if you are suffering from a physical illness. No one questions that. But what happens if you miss class because of a mental illness? In most states missing school because you just couldn’t get out of bed is not an acceptable excuse.

So, where does that leave people like me? I can tell you from personal experience that it has left me dragging myself out of bed and forcing myself to go to school completely miserable. It has also led to me skipping school and staying in bed all day, too depressed to do anything else while also panicking about missing school and collecting another unexcused absence.

Lawmakers in both Oregon and Utah have recognized that many students are struggling and enacted legislation that will hopefully combat this issue and help students nationwide.

Oregon lawmakers passed a law in July that would allow students five mental-health days within a three-month period. In 2018 Utah changed the definition of a valid absence to include both physical and mental illnesses.

To me, this is a huge step in the right direction. Depression is debilitating, but I have many days where I am fine and happy. There are also many days that are just the opposite. I can never predict when I will have an “off day” and there is no easy solution to fix it. Some days I have paralyzing anxiety and the only “fix” for me is to isolate myself from everything and everyone.

I think all states should consider passing laws that grant mental health days to students of all ages. School is stressful for most students, and for students like me, battling a mental illness, having mental health days would help further erase the stigma around mental health.