Potomac Institutes New Mental Health Day Pilot Program

Non-essential Work Will Not Need To Be Made Up

Jessica Raman

During an Upper School Meeting on March 31, senior peer group leaders Noah Yanowitch and Jack Butler introduced Potomac’s new Mental Health Day pilot program, an opportunity for students to take a day off from school to support their mental health. The program results from a collaborative process involving teachers, students, and administrators.

As Jack explained about improving mental health, “reducing stigma is a very important part of this process.” When, as a community, we are more open to talking about mental health, he believes it will be easier for us to support our own wellbeing.

When a student wishes to take a Mental Health Day, they must fill out the “Mental Health Day” Google form, which is linked in “Next Week in the Upper School.” Sometime that day, the student will hear from a member of Potomac’s counseling team, either Mrs. Woods or Mr. Singleton.

The main purpose of this conversation, Mrs. Woods said, is to “make sure the student feels supported and that they have resources available to them.” Other than this conversation, the student may spend the day in any activity they feel would benefit their mental health. As an example, Noah and Jack cited going for a walk.

Any “non essential” work students miss during a Mental Health day will be waived. While the final guidelines have not been set, Upper School Director of Curriculum and Academics Mrs. Tory Virchow said that “essential work is work that needs to be done to move on to the next stage of learning in the class.” When a student takes a Mental Health Day, they are still responsible for making up most assignments. Mrs. Virchow added that “a graded assignment is an essential assignment” and major projects due on the day a student takes a Mental Health Day will be pushed one day. Mrs. Virchow emphasized communication between students and teachers to ensure that students understand what is expected of them during a Mental Health Day.

There is no limit to the number of Mental Health Days a student may take, but as Jack said, “our genuine hope is that students don’t misuse it, because that definitely damages the integrity of the program”. It’s important that students feel as though they can always take a Mental Health Day, and as Jack added, “we wanted it to feel like when you’re taking one, you’re not expending something”. Overall, beyond working to increase awareness around mental health at Potomac, Jack hopes that this initiative will “inspire other students to find initiatives that they see at Potomac that need to be righted, and go for it”.