What If We Provided All Teachers With Mental Health or Self-Reg Days Off Every Year?

What If We Provided All Teachers With Mental Health or Self-Reg Days Off Every Year?

Then there was the time that I was SO HAPPY to have bronchitis…. Who is happy about getting super sick?  

Over-stressed people, that’s who.

Bronchitis provided me the gift of some days off to rest which I needed for my own mental health more than even my physical health!  Of course at the end of the time off on comes the guilt (prosocial domain), the worry about the mess you will return to (emotion domain), the challenge of trying to stay focused on your planning for the first day back (cognitive domain), the phone calls from your concerned mother to return (oh big sigh the social domain is full of stressors) and the fact that you are still getting over actually being sick (biological domain).

Which brings me to another related point…

What really is the difference between mental health and health?

All the efforts to address the stigma connected to mental health is promising and positive. I am looking forward to the day when this is actually a non-conversation because there is no stigma to bust. Self-Reg can help with this. We need to be paying attention to the brain-body stress response system, the science that underpins self-regulation and the oodles of research linking mental health and well-being to healthy bodies.  

What If: Mental Health Days - self-reg.caOur teachers are over-stressed, the absentee rates from educators are through the roof, and the impacts on student learning, behaviour and well-being are all tied to taking care of our school folks. What if we took a different approach and learned from our teachers who (like me!) have had moments of sheer relief because they were sick and could “legitimately” take some much needed days to recover and restore?

And if you are reading this and shaking your head, do know that this is one of those issues that you cannot fully understand if you’ve never walked in the shoes of a teacher. The experience of stress in certain roles can only be understood from the inside out. Memories of my newborn daughter through six months of colic comes to mind as another example. But trust me, teaching is right up there as a ‘you had to live it’ experience to understand the toll it can take on brain-body health and well-being.  

Stuart Shanker and I had a conversation about this rich “What If..” topic which you can watch here or in the player below.

What if we made mental health days universal and required all team members to take several off every year?  I know this is a big what if, but really what if? Would the same outcome happen in your schools that did for my friend’s school in Europe that I describe to Stuart Shanker in this video?

In the Self-Reg: What If..? Series we explore topics related to Self-Reg and wonder openly around what is possible, where the barriers are, and why rethinking may matter. The ideas shared are not intended to be how to advice, only to open up conversations. Comments are most welcome.

By | 2018-01-24T16:48:17+00:00 July 11th, 2017|


  1. Lisa February 11, 2018 at 9:34 am - Reply

    Love this idea! I worked for a principal at one time who told us he was ok with mental health days. He said if we didn’t feel well enough to do our job, we should stay home. He never questioned why we took days off. Other principals are less understanding of this though.

  2. Ingrid Smith April 15, 2018 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    I would like more mental health “days in”, undirected PA days to plan with colleagues, clean up my room and get in top of the things that slip between the cracks. Sometimes I get so behind I can’t see the forest for the trees and then we all struggle. We need calm, self-regulated adults before we can teach children about self-reg.

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