Massachusetts state representative wants schools to allow mental health days for students

BOSTON – Between the hours of homework, sports practices and extracurriculars, high school students can keep grueling schedules.

“Balancing them can be way too much,” explained Taunton High School senior Aracely Alicia.

“I know a lot of kids experience something called burnout,” added classmate Nicole Drake.

That’s why these students support a bill that would allow two excused absences for mental health days. 

“I think it’s an amazing idea,” Alicia said.

The bill was introduced before the pandemic by Rep. Carol Doherty, who worked for years as a school guidance counselor and experienced first-hand the effects of stress on high school kids. 

“The bill is more important now because children have experienced the ravages of the pandemic in terms of their education and their mental health,” she said.

Principal Scott Holcomb says he sees those impacts every day. 

“Anxiety from children is higher than I have seen in my 26 years in education,” he said. “If you are anxious, it’s more difficult to learn,” he added refuting the argument from some critics who worry that kids have already missed too much school.

Students like Drake believe the time off will make students more productive. 

“I believe it would also help the perform better once you take that mental health break,” she said.

Alicia also believes passing the bill will raise awareness and get students talking about the importance of taking care of their own mental health. 

“It helps rid the stigma of if you are staying home, you are lazy or if you need a day off you are just quitting. I think everyone kind of needs a break,” she said.

“We need to listen to our young people. That’s where I think the important information comes about what young people need post-pandemic,” Doherty said.

The bill was sent to committee which can mean it’s stalled, but Representative Doherty vows to continue to fight to get it passed. 

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