TSR Health: Illinois, we see you!! The state is showing that it is placing value in championing mental health, especially at a young age.
A new law will allow kids to take up to five mental health days off school starting in 2022. The law, which Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker signed, will allow for five excused absences from school without the need for a doctor’s note, beginning in January, USA Today reports.
The law applies to all public school students, ages 6-17. Supporters of the bill argued that students are under increasing amounts of mental strain, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Many students feel stressed, and have developed anxiety and depression because they’re not able to see teachers and friends, and may have lower grades due to remote learning. This will allow them to get the help they need,” said State Rep. Barbara Hernandez, a co-sponsor of the bill.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study last fall that showed mental health-related emergency room visits among children increased 24% for kids between the ages of 5 and 11, and 31% for those aging 12 to 17 since around the start of the pandemic in April 2020. This is compared to numbers from 2019.
Before the pandemic, mental health diagnoses in children were already on the rise.
One study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics in 2018 found that rates of anxiety and depression were increasing in kids ages 6 to 17 from 5.4% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2011 to 2012.
The Illinois bill also states students who take more than two of the approved mental health days should be referred to appropriate school support services.
Students who take mental health days will also be allowed to make up missed work.
“As society continues to increase the importance of addressing mental health as a part of health care, we must ensure that our students have the ability to address issues they are dealing with,” State Sen. Robert Martwick said in a statement after the bill passed the Senate. “This bill removes the stigma and allows students to prioritize their mental health and stability.”
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