Stuff.co.nz asked me what I thought about banning mufti days at schools. It's a complex topic, and we already expect so much of our young people. But is it enough to ban anxiety-inducing things, or should we be teaching better skills and strategies?
It wasn't included in the article but I'm definitely of the opinion that mental health skills should be taught as part of schooling, right from when kids first go to class.
Read the article here, and I've reproduced it below in case it gets moved at some point in the future and the link no longer works. .
I'd love to know your thoughts!
Calls to ban mufti day for anxiety it can cause young students
MATT SHAND - Last updated 10:53, March 9 2018
For many students a mufti day is a fun day free from itchy school uniforms, but for one Bay of Plenty student it means listening to their family member crying all night long as stress and anxiety takes hold.
The student has petitioned their school, which Stuff has chosen not to name to protect the identity of the child, to ban mufti days altogether to help ease stress on children who feel pressured by what to wear.
The student went so far as to say that banning mufti day could even save lives.
"Now you may think that 'saving someones life' may sound dramatic but are you forgetting the memorial to students who have died?" he wrote.
"Some of those were suicide due to bullying. I'm not saying Mufti Day is directly linked to suicide but can you really argue that it's not going to be a huge event for bullying?"
The petition organiser said New Zealand's poverty rate meant some children live in fear of being labelled or being bullied for having old, or uncool clothing.
"Everyone deserves the right to feel safe, secure and happy... It's selfish to deny someone that right and it's so simple to reverse this recurring problem within our school. And I'm begging you as a fellow student to help me end it."
The school principal was made aware of the petition but to protect students did not discuss the matter further.
"We will seek to gain the views of our children and our college community, ensuring all feel listened to before progressing this matter further," the principal said.
"Beyond that I have no further comment to make."
Psychologist Nadine Isler said this fear of social comparison could be one underlying issue but shied away from supporting a blanket ban on mufti day.
"It's natural and healthy to compare yourself with others up to a point," she said.
"This is an age when people are doing a lot of comparing from the latest cellphone or whose allowed to have a Facebook account etc.
"That [mufti day] being put into the mix I can see how it might be a cause for anxiety."
Isler said creating a mufti day ban could be a case of "treating the trigger not the underlying problem."
"We don't want to get to a point where we are regulating everything.
"That being said if this is causing problems for a large number of people perhaps there is a case to remove it."
Isler said parents and teachers should try to be open about anxiety and talk as much as possible about the topic.
"It can be a hard conversation to have with children but it is important," she said.
Where to get help:
- For more information or support regarding anxiety you can call Anxiety New Zealand Trust on their 24/7 free national helpline 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)
- If you need to talk to someone you can contact:
- Free call or text 1737 any time
- Lifeline 0800 543 354 or (09) 522 29999
- Suicide Prevention Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
- Youthline 0800 376 633 Samaritans 0800 726 666