As many children head back to school after winter break, millions of parents will face resistance.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association all report that children’s mental health has worsened over the past decade.
The OBERLAND Agency asked a series of questions that had been asked in an earlier survey nine years before (2013). They found more Americans agree that a mental illness is no different than a physical illness, more Americans search on Google for terms like “anxiety” and “therapist,” and more Americans are aware of the numerous organizations devoted to mental health. However, the agency also found little change in access to care and stigma around care from others.
Alnardo Martinez, a licensed mental health counselor with the Child Mind Institute, is among those pushing for schools to offer mental health sick days for students.
“We already know that there's general sick days if they have like a fever cough, cold flu," he said. "Those are good and important and kids need rest, but there is a difference. and we're trying to help kind of eliminate the stigma around mental health.”
Numerous surveys show Generation Z is far more likely to discuss their mental health publicly and identify mental health concerns. Those needs are starting to catch up to state leaders.
In 2018, Utah became the first state to allow mental health days just as they would sick days. That’s now the case in a dozen states, including California, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona.
“These are times where kids are like overwhelmed or stressed when they're like, maybe working really hard on a project or at times when kids are studying for things like standardized tests or things that are, kind of, college applications. Those kinds of things where they're undergoing a lot of stress," Martinez said. "They're tired. They're irritable. They're overwhelmed. Those are times we would look for like a mental health day. When it’s not a good use is when it’s leading to avoidance."
Martinez adds that anxiety, stress and depression can take a toll on the body.
Parents really being proactive is a great step to keep from getting to a point where a crisis or emergency situation is needed,” Martinez said.
Nine years ago, mental health saw too much stigma and not enough awareness. Now awareness has grown stronger, especially among students waiting for the stigma to no longer be a barrier.
“It comes down to like making sure that's like at the forefront of a lot of these conversations and then that when people are trying to bring in legislation or when they're trying to like, make these changes at schools that they really have these facts and and these re the research behind it to show how important this can be,” Martinez said.