Illinois children will be able to take up to five mental health or behavioral days away from school beginning in January 2022.
The absences, according to NPR, will be excused.
What are the details?
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed the bill into law in late August, stating that any students who choose to take a "mental health" day will not be required to provide professional documentation from a medical doctor or other physician.
Illinois State Rep. Barbara Hernandez (D), co-sponsor of the bill, said that the importance of children being able to take days off to tend to their mental and emotional health is of utmost importance — especially amid an ongoing pandemic.
"Having this now for all students across the state will be really beneficial, especially with what's going on with COVID," Hernandez told the
Journal-Courier in a Wednesday statement. "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."
NPR cites data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which states that between March 2020 and May 2020, hospitals across the country saw a 24% increase in the number of mental health emergencies suffered by children 5 to 11 years old. The increase was 31% in the 12-17 age group.
Hernandez added that she's "really excited for this."
"I think it will help students, parents, and teachers, and can help them understand what's going on in their students' lives," she added.
NPR notes that Illinois is the latest state, which includes Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Virginia, to have implemented similar bills to benefit students' mental health in the classroom.
"Many students are going through a lot mentally and emotionally and they need the support," Hernandez insisted. "Another important thing is that they don't need to provide a doctor's note, so parents don't have to take their child in to a medical provider. Parents can just call the school and let them know their student is taking a mental health day."
Hernandez added that when a student request a second consecutive mental health day, a guidance counselor will discuss with the family an approach to get the student professional help if necessary.
A recent report from The New York Times reveals that adolescents across the country are faced with higher than ever stress levels amid the pandemic.
"Late last year the advocacy group Mental Health America surveyed teenagers about the top three things that would be most helpful to their mental health," the outlet reported. "More than half of the respondents cited the ability to take a mental health break or absence from either school or work. And in a Harris Poll of more than 1,500 teenagers conducted in May of last year, 78 percent of those surveyed said schools should support mental health days to allow students to prioritize their health."