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Mental health days… not just “days off”

(Adobe Stock)

SALT LAKE CITY – Psychologists all over the world are praising the effectiveness of mental health days for people battling depression of anxiety.  However, they say there are right ways and wrong ways to do them.  Plus, they say teens who feel they need one should avoid screen time, altogether.

Not all mental health days are created equal.  Psychologists say they should be used in different ways, depending on what the person needs them for, but, they should never be used as simply just a “day off.”  Sure, if you’re exhausted, taking it easy could help you recharge your batteries.  However, if someone is depressed, counselors say that person shouldn’t isolate themselves from others on those days.

“I know a lot of teens that I work with in my practice that really want a mental health day because they’re avoiding things or they’re depressed.  If that’s the case, you need to help them figure out what’s going on and what’s causing the depression,” according to psychologist Karen Checketts.

Isolation is a sign of depression and Checketts says avoiding people could make things worse.

She adds, “Try to focus on the things that make you feel good about life.  Look for the things that are working.  Be with people that you love and love you.”

For anxious people, Checketts says mental health days should be used as a chance to face their fears.  Perhaps they could approach strangers and speak with them, or they could have that awkward discussion they’ve been putting off.

However, if a teen wants a mental health day, for any reason, screen time should be severely limited.

Checketts says, “I have a big bias against them.  I think kids don’t need to be on their tablets and phones more than an hour a day.  They need to be forced to talk to one another.”

She can cite studies showing screen time is having a much bigger negative impact on teens than many people would believe.

“Studies show that people are losing their empathy because they can say and do things over text that they wouldn’t do if they were in front of them.  Also, they’re losing their ability to really communicate,” she says.

On Monday, October 1, KSL Newsradio is hosting a free workshop on teen anxiety, depression and screen time.  It’s free to the public and it starts at 6 p.m. at the Miller Auditorium on the Salt Lake Community College’s Sandy Campus.