Students granted ability to take mental health days under new Illinois law

As of Jan. 1 students will be able to excuse an absence under it being considered a mental health day due to a newly passed Illinois law.
The law is under the title “Law Public Act 102-3-1 Senate Bill 1577” and it allows all students enrolled in public school from the ages of 7 to 17 to miss a few days of school so they can focus on their mental health.
Over the course of the year, students will be given a total of 5 mental health days that can be taken at any time.
Throughout 2021 the idea for the law was brought up and ultimately the bill was approved by Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker in Aug 2021.
The law was proposed due to a noticed increase in students missing school due to mental health related matters as a result of the ongoing Covid pandemic that has taken over the world in the past two years.
Along with Covid, during the pandemic there has been an increase in a talk on mental health that is helping to lower the stigma regarding it in the school system.
“What’s very interesting especially with Covid is that more people have spoken out about mental health and actually being preventative,” said AT social worker Jennifer Dowling.
When students take a mental health day they will be referred to the appropriate system for support for what will be considered a check-in. Check-ins can be done by school staff such as counselors, social workers, or teachers to talk to students about what they are going through.
“I think what these days can really do is help us identify students and then allow our staff to jump in and support and any students who do take on of these 5 mental health days will be connected with any of our mental health staff for a check-in on either that day or maybe a following day,” said AT principal Jack Andrews.
In addition, students who take a mental health day will not be required to give a doctor’s note and can make up any of the other work that they missed on days following the one they took off.
In order to take a mental health day, a student would call out of school and be excused by their guardian just as they would for any other reason.
Illinois is just one of the many states in the country that has passed this type of law to look out for the mental health of students.
“They can be beneficial in giving time and space for the support that’s needed when overloaded by the stressors of being a human being an adolescent and needing to reset, finding that way to step back and organize your mind and get support in terms of checking in with the right people,” said Dowling.
When taking a mental health day it can be beneficial for students to make sure to take care of their physical health by sleeping and exercising. They should also try to do activities that are calming for them in order to help relax their mind.
For anyone who may need help with mental health they can call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, text HOME to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line, call 1-800-622-4357 (HELP) for the SAMHSA National Helpline. All of these helplines are available 24 hours 7 days a week and anyone can call whenever they may need.

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