Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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The Need for Mental Health Days

Victoria+Ware
Abigail Cutlip
Victoria Ware

I have to get everything done. I’m already behind as it is. I dream of finishing that book I started reading in August. It’s a great series, but it will have to wait until December. I have to be at my internship in a couple of hours, so it’s important that I complete my tasks now. I don’t want my professors to think I’m a slacker. Sometimes, I wish I were a slacker. Then I could actually get a full night’s sleep.

The precarious loop I’ve found myself in this semester is not a solitary experience. Many students are tasked with juggling their coursework, jobs, internships and clubs while trying to maintain their physical and mental well-being.         

However, in a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, researchers found that student mental health is worsening. More than 60% of college students have at least one mental health issue. This statistic makes sense considering the rise in the availability of counseling services and an overall reduction in the stigma surrounding mental health discussions.

In line with this trend, a practice that has gained traction in recent years is the concept of a “mental health day.” The Mayo Clinic defines a mental health day as “a limited time away from your usual responsibilities with the intention of recharging and rejuvenating your mental health.” 

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Some universities are taking note of the stress students are experiencing and encouraging them to take mental health days to recharge. Northwestern University allows students to take up to two mental health days at any point in a semester. North Carolina State University increased its mental health efforts and implemented school-wide wellness days. More institutions are attempting to address the anxiety that college can bring. It’s something that Marshall University, in particular, should consider because it would provide a small glimmer of relief to students who are feeling overworked and are under stress.

Candace Layne, the director of the Counseling Center at Marshall University, says mental health days should be intentional and purposeful.

“It’s basically just taking time for yourself to recharge and rest,” Layne said. “Actually, when we do mental health days, we want the person to rest but actually focus on, ‘How can I help myself feel better?’”

Marshall student Kylie Roberts agrees that mental health days are valuable and should be encouraged.

“I believe that two mental health days a semester would be a great idea,” Roberts said. “Most students use up their ‘sick days’ on mental health, rather than actual sickness, anyways. We have so many things to do in one week, and sometimes, we just need a break. With this enactment, students would have the opportunity to work on themselves and one another.”

College is very fast-paced. During a particularly strenuous semester, students can feel as if there’s no time on a given day to assess their own emotions. There needs to be time for people to slow down, take inventory of their mental state and give themselves room to breathe.

“I think that’s also the Appalachian way of life—‘suck it up and keep going,’” Layne said. “I always tell students, ‘You might keep going, but your body is going to tell you that it needs a break some way.’ We have to work on our health and wellness, and that includes mental health. So, it can be very beneficial sometimes to take a moment—take a break and recharge.”

Although many people would leap at the chance to have a day dedicated to relaxation, Kaye Godbey, the Wellness Center coordinator, is not entirely convinced that mental health days are beneficial or applicable. I went into the conversation assuming that she would praise mental health days and highly recommend them. In a shocking turn of events, she did the exact opposite. Godbey approached the concept from a different angle and provided an argument that left me thinking.

“I think every day is a mental health day,” Godbey said. “Every day has to be a mental health day. I feel like breaks for your mental health happen habitually throughout the day. When we are compassionate towards ourselves all the time, it shouldn’t be a special day like Christmas that we take care of ourselves; but rather it’s important that we think of our mental health more like how we would our regular hygiene.”

She said that she found the notion of setting aside a whole day to practice self-care to be unrealistic. Few people have the privilege to take an actual mental health day.

“I’m really a little bit opposed to making mental health a one-day-a-week sort of thing,” Godbey said. “If you have to take a mental health day, I’m not opposed to it, but I think we have to take mental health days more often when we aren’t doing our regular emotional hygiene.”

I was initially surprised by the argument, but after giving it some thought, I understood the stance a bit more. It is important to take personal time every day. Setting aside moments in the day to relax and breathe is highly beneficial. Unfortunately, finding time during the day to dedicate to self-care can be a difficult search. Many students fall prey to overloading themselves. Constantly being busy can seem fulfilling at first, but after a while, it starts to take a toll on a person. There is an innately human need for downtime. It’s valuable and can provide a student with space for introspection, mental clarity and relaxation. It can be difficult for someone to admit when they need a break, but it’s something that is occasionally necessary.

Mental health days may seem like a fad to some, but there is genuine good that can come from them. While recently attempting to accomplish my revolving door of tasks, I’ve tried to search for little pockets of time when I can relax and put my to-do list on pause. Having a full day to unplug and rest may appear trivial, but it can make a noticeable difference to a student’s well-being.

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