Illinois Students Can Press Pause

Public Schools Are Providing Five Mental Health Days, Parker Should Too


Getting home from school at around nine o’clock on a Tuesday night, opening the Portal, and seeing the plethora of assignments you have to do before the next day can leave you overwhelmed. The continuing pattern of doing this everyday can put your mental stability at risk. 

Starting January 2022, students at public schools throughout Illinois will be able to take up to five mental health days, where their absence is counted as excused. They don’t need to provide evidence of mental health issues, and they can make up all the work they have missed. This new law from the state legislature will allow many Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students to recover mentally after an incredibly hard year for students across the nation. Parker, as an independent school, isn’t required to follow this law. 

After a year of learning through a screen, Parker has tried to go back to ‘business as usual.’ Is this really beneficial for the health and well-being of the student body?

Parker should implement this policy and follow the same regulations as the state-mandate for public schools. As a student, mental health is crucial to enjoying and getting the most out of school, as well as being able to perform in classes to the best of my ability. Some of the highlights of my day are hanging out with friends at lunch or talking to a variety of people in my classes. 

When I come home, however, my social battery is completely drained. It gets difficult to focus on solving equations for Precalculus or writing an essay for American Lit. I still push myself to finish it all because I wouldn’t want to fall behind on my schoolwork. The continuous pattern of this everyday has left me drained and overwhelmed by the end of the week.

Parker itself is a very tough school. Many if not all of our classes are college or honors level classes. There’s a reason many Parker students get into such competitive colleges, and it’s not because the coursework is easy. The amount of stress Parker students go through is not normal for average high school students. Having the administration acknowledge this and implement mental health days would help keep stress levels down in what feels like an overwhelming environment at times. 

Many students feel that mental health is a very touchy subject at Parker. I know students who sought help from Parker counsellors and felt unnoticed, and aren’t comfortable with speaking about mental health. On top of that, many teachers are solely concerned with getting through their class content. Since they’re all concerned with their own classes, students are getting hours of work per class, not enough time to sleep, and little support for their mental health.

Especially since we’re actually in-person, it can be hard to get work done during the day because of all the social aspects of school, and for many students this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Many people have forgotten the congested feeling of the hallways, or the many eyes on you when you speak in class. Many of us have not quite acclimated to the social environment yet and have lost over a year of practicing these skills. 

Students experiencing anxiety or depression isn’t just a coincidence. Scientists studying the effects on students from the pandemic are saying that Gen X is more prone to mental health issues than other generations. According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there was a 31% increase in teenagers who needed emergency care for mental health reasons during the pandemic. It was also reported that four in 10 adults have said they suffered from anxiety and/or depression post-pandemic. 

The evidence of increased mental health issues, especially in teenagers, shows how much we need time to rest and make sure our own physical and mental health is our number one priority. Especially after such a stressful year, mental health days would greatly help the student body to lead a happier and healthier lifestyle. Walking into school and pretending everything is how it used to be before the pandemic may be easier to some, but what is the mental impact that this will leave on our generation?