Should Students in Holyoke be Allowed to Take Mental Health Days?


Alina Fairlie, News Editor

     Coming into effect on January 1st of 2022, Illinois students will be allowed to take up to 5 excused mental health days. This will not require a doctor’s note, and will provide students with an opportunity to make up the work. After the request of a second day, teachers may contact a parent and encourage getting help from a professional. 


     Coming back to school after Covid has left many students struggling with social anxiety, and younger students have developed separation anxiety. Last year was extremely unprecedented and forced everyone in the country to adapt to a new way of life. So many parents rejected their kids’ complaints about online learning because they didn’t understand how difficult it could be. Some people simply couldn’t learn that way, and those that can still suffered from a severe lack of socialization. Hopefully, with laws like this being passed in various states across the country, adults with rudimentary understandings of mental illness will have more sympathy for their kids. 


     We have seen an overall increase in our youths’ psychological conditions, especially in this past year. Kids ages 12 to 17 have seen a 31% increase in mental health emergencies this year, and a 24% increase for kids 12 and younger. Officials hope that this new law will result in a decrease of mental health reports among students, and an increase in grade percentages that have dropped over the past year of remote learning. 


     Over the past couple of years, we have seen mental health become more destigmatized, especially in school systems. Illinois Senator Robert Martwick says “This bill removes the stigma and allows students to prioritize their mental health and stability.” When feeling physically ill, kids are often encouraged to take a day of rest so they can return to school in a better state. Facilitating open conversations around mental health will allow kids to take care of themselves emotionally as well. It’s very common for adults to dismiss their children’s concerns around their well being as an excuse to get out of their responsibilities. This only worsens any issues they may have and weakens relationships between parents and children. 


     Some may worry that this law will be taken advantage of. In school systems like Holyoke that have higher dropout rates, this may be harder to pass. This sense of leniency could encourage students that don’t understand the importance of mental health days to attend school less. However, counselors are required to contact professionals after the request of a second day, making this law much harder to be manipulated.  An argument that is often made is that kids should only be allowed to take a day off with a diagnosis regarding mental illness, prioritizing them. This statement does not consider the fact that getting diagnosed can be considered a privilege that a lot of people do not have. Requiring a doctor’s note could invalidate people who do need a break but cannot get diagnosed for various reasons. 


     Other states, such as Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Virginia have passed similar laws over the past few years. Massachusetts is a more progressive state, so we may see this conversation being held in the future.