New law allows Illinois students five mental health days a year.


Francesca Messerschmidt

Jason Robershaw speaks to sophomores about mental health first aid.

Francesca Messerschmidt, Staff Writer

A new law has granted all Illinois students aged seven and older five excused “mental health days” per school year. 

With the pandemic, many students have had increased mental health struggles, and these mental health days could help combat this.

Additionally, students face a lot of stress from schoolwork, bullying and other school-related issues.

These mental health days will not be counted against students’ attendance.

“The law states that students can use up to five mental health days (excused) without having to provide the school with a doctor’s note,”  said Harrisburg District 3 social/emotional trauma professional Lynn Penrod. “Students will be able to make up any work that was missed on their days off.”

Many think that these days will be helpful to students, including teachers.

“Emphasis has been placed on physical health in the past,” said social studies teacher Dan Craig. “Now it’s being placed on mental health which is just as important.”
Principal Scott Dewar believes that it’s very important these days be used for their true purpose.

“These days are important if they’re used properly,” Dewar said. “Like anything, it can be abused and have negative outcomes.”
Penrod sees a different side to negative outcomes this law could create.
“It might cause more anxiety,” said Penrod. “Missing school and having to make up work can contribute to stress levels that may already be high.”

One question that students have been wondering about is the involvement of professionals with this new law.
“After the first day is used, students can expect a call from a mental health professional to their family,” said Penrod. “The student may be referred to receive professional help.”
Even students who are not facing mental illness could find benefits from this law according to Craig.
“Everyone needs a break sometimes,” said Craig. “ Stress and anxiety can take over, and we need a break to take the time to regroup and tackle whatever comes our way.”

The new law may also help to break down the stigma of receiving help for mental health.
“Bringing awareness to the issue is a good step toward getting students to access the mental health support we have in the districts and learning to manage and cope with mental health struggles,” Penrod said.

This law could bring a change to students facing mental health problems statewide.
“For far too long, people didn’t focus on mental health,” said Craig. “Now it’s finally being addressed.”