New Illinois Legislation Allows Student Mental Health Days

New Illinois Legislation Allows Student Mental Health Days

Brian Ackerman, Reporter

  In August, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker signed a bill that will allow students of Illinois schools to take mental health days.

      Starting in January 2022, students of all Illinois schools will be able to take five mental health days off from school. Students will not need to provide medical information to be excused for a mental health day and will be able to complete any work that was missed.

      Excused mental health days for students are especially important given the circumstances with the pandemic and schools returning to in-person learning.

      According to the CDC, during the first few months of the pandemic, there was a 31% increase in mental health emergencies for children aged 12 to 17 years old.

      Illinois state representative Barbara Hernandez, a sponsor of the bill, said “having mental health days now for all students across the state will be really beneficial, especially with the pandemic.”            

      Many students spent the previous school year doing remote learning and, for some, partial in-person learning, but with many restrictions. For some students, it has been almost a year-and-a-half since they have had full in-person learning. This may make the transition from long-term remote learning to full in-person learning this school year difficult for some students.

      According to Dr. Ujjwal Ramtekkar, a psychiatrist of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, teenagers face unique mental health challenges. He says that some teenagers struggle with anxiety in social and academic situations, especially with the return to full in-person learning and normal socialization at schools.

      By the end of the year, school districts in all of Illinois have to establish a plan allowing students the five excused mental health days, as required by the bill.

      Illinois is not the only state that has passed legislation for mental health days for students;  Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Virginia have also passed similar legislation in recent years.