SPRINGFIELD – Beginning this year, Illinois is recognizing mental health days as an excused absence. The new state law allows public school students to have five excused mental health absences.
A mental health day can be taken if a student experiences concerns such as anxiety, depression, or somatic symptoms, such as a headache or vomiting. Officials warn that mental health days are not to be taken due to stress from lack of work completion or test preparation, overscheduling of extracurricular activities or job hours. Students who are experiencing feelings of stress related to these items are advised to visit their school counselor. It is also advised that mental health days should not be used as an extension of a holiday break or vacation plans.
“Mental health concerns are on the forefront of everyone’s minds,” said Waubonsie Valley High School mental health coordinator Kelly Zielie. “Mental health hospitalizations and suicides have increased, and therapists are having to have waiting lists to make appointments for new patients. The state of Illinois is trying to address the concerns by giving the option of mental health days for students.”
Students will be allowed up to five mental health days a school year. After the second mental health day is taken, students will be required to have a consultation with a school mental health provider. Students may also be referred to mental health resources.
“The positive thing about students taking mental health days is that if a student is taking more than a single day,” said Zielie, “they may be referred to support staff to check in. This allows for an earlier intervention to take place for students who may be struggling with mental health concerns but may not feel comfortable either turning themselves in for supports or not aware that there are supports.”
If a student’s concerns warrant parent notification, a phone call or email would be made directly to that parent. For more information, visit wvhs.ipsd.org.