Illinois public school students get mental health days in 2022

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — As the calendar turned to 2022, Illinoisans saw hundreds of new laws go into effect.

One of those laws is a new way for schools to help their entire student body, and it is all about mental health. The new Illinois law allows public school students to have five excused mental health absences.

Mental health advocates and parents said that this is a needed change, especially for kids today.

“It’s not easy for a 13-year-old, a 12-year-old, or even an 8-year-old, somebody young to be able to do that,” said Anne Wilkerson, mother of one. “It’s hard right now, so it’s too much for these kids in this age.”

Wilkerson is a mother to 13-year-old Abby. She said that she is happy to hear Illinois students will have the opportunity to take the day off to focus on their mental health.

“I think this is a great opportunity for kids to take the days that they need,” Wilkerson said. “There’s so much stress in their lives right now. Even as my daughter talks about it, she’s so stressed about school already.”

Danielle Angileri, NAMI’s Executive Director, said that many kids are dealing with stresses that they have not had to deal with in the past.

“Think about how much the world has changed over the last two years, and school is already a stressor for some kids, and having a stressed mind isn’t a great place to learn in your head,” Angileri said. “I can’t imagine going to school with everything going on.”

“So, I think it’s great that they can take that time to really feel more comfortable and be able to say, ‘hey, I’m struggling mentally,’ and I feel like that could connect them to resources too,” Wilkerson added.

Wilkerson said that she is going to encourage her daughter to use whatever day she needs to focus and prioritize her mental health.

“So, I’ve told her if you need a day, let’s take a day. Your health is your health, mentally or physically,” Wilkerson said. “I want her to kind of just focus on what’s going on with her, what does she need to do to try and get better, what’s causing it and what are the triggers. If it’s something with school, let’s talk through it and if it’s a day where I need to take off too, and we need to spend that, kind of being able to talk and connecting, I think that’s important.”

Students will not be required to provide a doctor’s note under the new law, and will be allowed to make up any work missed from their day off.

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