Illinois students will be able to take up to 5 mental health days starting next year

Beginning next year, students in Illinois schools will be able to take up to five excused mental or behavioral health days.

This is part of a bill Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law last week.

It means students who take mental health days will not be required to provide schools with a doctor's note and will be able to make up any work they miss.

Pediatric psychiatrist Dr. Louis Kraus said since the beginning of COVID-19, mental health issues have worsened for children.

"During this whole COVID process, mental health issues have worsened for kids, anxiety symptoms, depression symptoms," Dr. Kraus said. "It's really been a traumatic period of time."


Dr. Kraus said allowing a child to take a day to regroup is a great idea, however, parents and family members should make sure the day is used productively.

"The concept of having mental health days to allow kids without an excuse to take a day off just to regroup, to do homework, to have a fun day with their family, whatever the case may be, is a great idea," said Dr. Kraus. "The key part though is that there is good communication with the family. You want to make sure the day off is not a sort of tip of the iceberg of some type of problem that might be developing."

Depending on the age of the child, Dr. Kraus said parents may want to use different language to explain what the day should be used for.

"Using the concept ‘mental health day' might not be the ideal wording," said Dr. Kraus. "To be able to know that you can have a day off to, you know, take care of things, be with your family, you're struggling, whatever the case may be, but you have those days for yourself — that's the key."

The hope, Dr. Kraus said, is that families will no longer feel like they need an excuse for their child to take a day off of school.