Mental health days to be implemented in Illinois schools

Haley Maser, Editor-in-Chief

Beginning in January, Illinois students will be able to take mental health days off of school. 

Image taken from online at https://rackham.umich.edu/discover-rackham/graduate-student-mental-health-matters/

A new bill was signed into law by Governor J. B. Pritzker in August, allowing up to five excused absences related to mental health. Public school students aged six through 17 will not be required to provide a doctor’s note until the five-day limit has been exceeded.

This law comes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left many students out of school buildings and away from classmates for over a year. Representative Barbara Hernandez, a co-sponsor of the bill, explained, “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.”

As shown by a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the fall of 2020, COVID-19 seems to have affected children’s overall mental health. In children aged 12 to 17, the proportion of mental-health-related visits to emergency departments saw a 31% increase.

“I think having the option to take school off for mental health is a good idea,” stated Emma Schumacher, a senior at Joliet West. “School can be mentally draining and it’s important to have time to recharge.”

Other members of the Joliet West community feel that implementing activities during school is a more realistic option. “Although I do believe mental health is a real problem for this generation, I do not believe missing school is the solution, ” explained Mrs. Muczynski, a conditioning teacher. In her class, she practices yoga and mediation with her students.

“Staying at home and isolating can further contribute to the issue, depending on the circumstance; therefore using the school resources and being around supportive people might help ease the mind,” continued Muczynski. Joliet West is beginning to implement mental health-driven activities in classrooms in addition to the state’s new excused absences.

Following the request of a second mental health day, a school counselor will reach out to the student or their guardian to ensure they are receiving the help they require, according to the bill. 

Joliet West students wanting to reach out to faculty regarding their mental health can find social workers in room B239. Deans and counselors are also available, and students can find information regarding who their assigned counselor or dean is on the JTHS website.