Triad school districts offer mental health days

Piedmont Triad News

(WGHP) — As national Depression and Mental Health Screening Month just came to a close in October, the focus now turns to our children.

Over the weekend, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools announced Nov. 12 will serve as a mental health day — giving students and faculty a day off for self-care.

Over at Rockingham County Schools, that same day will be used as a remote workday for teachers.

School leaders there said the consensus was that students and teachers both deserved a day to “catch their breath and regroup” without having to come to school.

WSFCS officials said they’re pairing this day with World Kindness Day, which is Saturday, and what better way to exhibit kindness than to extend it by giving students and faculty a day off for mental health.

“One of the reoccurring themes is that everybody is just tired,” said Adam Powell, Rockingham County Schools public information officer.

That weariness has been heavy for so many since the start of the pandemic — including young students.

“They’ve lost time with friends, they’ve lost extracurricular and social activities, they’ve lost opportunities to engage with their teachers,” Powell said.

Teachers in Rockingham County will still have tasks to do remotely.

Because the day falls directly after Veterans Day, this means no one is required to come back to class for four days.

This comes about three years after the district implemented a mental and behavioral health program for students to learn coping skills.

“It goes beyond just simply educating,” Powell said.

Going with the World Kindness Day theme, WSFCS officials said in a newsletter that studies show acts of kindness for yourself and others can alleviate feelings of loneliness, stress, and anxiety.

“This alone, having a mental health day carved out into the school calendar will just start conversations,” said Megan Stone, a mental health professional at High Point Mental Health Associates.

Local mental health professionals are commending school leaders for taking the initiative to start that conversation that’s so often surrounded by stigma.

“I hope this gives people an opportunity, to not only to see others in a light under mental health, but to self-reflect and to use this time to do some internal searching to figure out exactly what it is your body may need and how to cope with that,” Stone said.

Neither of the school districts have made any permanent decisions on whether this extra day of “pause” will be recurring.

Officials from both districts said they felt the pandemic influenced their decision.

At WSFCS, extra meals will still be handed out to students who need them on Nov. 10 to make up for the meal some students will miss in lieu of the extra day off.

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