Illinois implements mental health days


Carmen Guerrero

Student services, where the counselors and social workers offices are located.

Morgan Anderson, Staff Reporter

A new law has recently been passed in January 2022 that allows Illinois students to take up to five days off of school for mental health. Overall, this new law has had a positive response, especially at Riverside Brookfield High School.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of life for people through guidelines and restrictions. A lot of these restrictions have prevented people from being social and interacting with friends, which negatively impacts the mental health of many. Erin Cunningham, a social studies and economics teacher at RBHS, agreed that the pandemic has changed the way people live.

“I think everyone’s mental health has been affected by the pandemic. We have experienced a lot of emotions and uncertainty and a real shift in how we operate on a day-to-day basis,” Cunningham said.

Especially for teenagers, this lack of social interaction has been a struggle. For many teenagers, this can lead to feelings of isolation and depression that are especially common in those in quarantine. Sophomore Hazel Hall voiced her thoughts on this.

“It hasn’t been easy. Especially last year, I struggled because it felt like all the fun aspects of school socially were taken away,” Hall said.

The new law that Illinois passed acknowledges that people are struggling mentally due to the pandemic. It also helps students escape the constant pressure to succeed rather than take care of themselves.

“Sometimes there is a bit of a culture that focuses on getting your work done rather than keeping a healthy environment,” Hall said.

This culture is very detrimental to students’ mental health, especially while their brains are still developing. It is also a recognition of the change in the mindset that physical health is more important than mental health.

“I like that society has shifted to be a little bit more open about the importance of mental health and this is a big step in destigmatizing mental illness,” Cunningham said.

The law also advocates for help among students who need it. It requires that if a student takes more than two of the mental health days available, they will be directed to the support systems that the school offers and parents will be contacted to help the student. Sophomore Katherine Dejesus is in support of this new policy.

“I think that it is important so the parents are aware that the kid is not doing well,” Dejesus said.

Although the overall feelings around the law are positive, there is the acknowledgement that this alone does not fix many of the mental health problems that teens have. 

“It’s not like all your problems suddenly go away. You’re still going to have to make up that work and do it at some point,” Hall said.

This concern over the workload is especially present if students take more than one day off in the same week. With seven subjects every day, sometimes taking time off from school can be overwhelming.

“The work piles up and that is even more detrimental to their mental health,” Cunningham said.

Overall, the direction that the law is headed is positive, leaving many people happy that the state is addressing mental health struggles.

“I think it is good progress for making mental health more important, especially in schools,” DeJesus said.