Illinois Is Giving Kids 5 Mental Health Days a Year—We Should Follow Suit

In a progressive move, the state of Illinois has recently enacted legislation allowing students five mental health days per year, no questions asked—setting a groundbreaking example for other states and countries to follow. Mental health is essential to overall well-being, and acknowledging its importance, especially in children, is crucial in fostering healthier and more resilient individuals. This article discusses the benefits of implementing mental health days and highlights why other regions should follow suit.

The Illinois Law

The law signed in August 2021 allows public school students in Illinois to take up to five mental health days per academic year without requiring a doctor’s note. These days do not need to be taken consecutively and can be used whenever students feel the need for emotional rest and recovery.

The importance of mental health

Addressing mental health issues in children and adolescents can pay off significantly by preventing potential long-term problems as they transition into adulthood. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 10-20% of children worldwide experience mental health disorders. With the added stressors of navigating a global pandemic, remote learning, and social isolation over the past year, prioritizing student mental health has become more important than ever.

Improved emotional well-being

Mental health days allow students space to recharge emotionally and mentally without adding stress from missing school or being marked absent. They provide young people with an opportunity to seek support from family members or psychotherapists, visit their place of worship for counsel, or engage in activities that restore emotional balance when feeling overwhelmed or burnt out.

Reducing academic anxiety

Granting mental health days reduces anxiety surrounding academic performance by giving students an opportunity to catch up on missed work without feeling stigmatized. It also encourages schools to recognize this time as essential for success and fosters a supportive learning environment.

Creating a stigma-free culture

By introducing mental health days, the state of Illinois is taking a significant step in combating the stigma surrounding mental health issues. This legislation sends a clear message that emotional well-being is just as important as physical health and students should be encouraged to take care of their emotional needs.

Addressing potential drawbacks

While some critics argue that parents may be reluctant to support these mental health days or worry about children taking advantage of this new policy, investing in educational campaigns and establishing clear guidelines can help address these concerns. Parental engagement in promoting their children’s mental health is crucial, as well.

In conclusion, providing mental health days for students is a progressive move that acknowledges the importance of emotional well-being. By implementing similar policies worldwide, we can pave the way for more resilient and healthier future generations while actively working to challenge the stigma around mental health.

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