States Fight Student Mental Health Crisis With Days Off

by | Jun 13, 2022 | Health

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — Linnea Sorensen falls into a funk whenever her girlfriend of four years leaves for her six-month stints with the Marines, and the high school junior has trouble concentrating on her class work.

“I’m somebody who struggles with my mental health quite a bit,” said the 17-year-old, who attends school in this suburb of about 77,000 people northwest of Chicago. “When you’re in school and not fully mentally there, it’s like you’re not really grasping anything anyway.”

Now Illinois is giving Sorensen and students like her a new option for dealing with mental health lows. The state allows K-12 students in public schools to have five excused absences per school year for mental health reasons, another example of the growing acknowledgment among lawmakers that emotional and physical health are intertwined. The new policy, which went into effect at the beginning of 2022, passed both chambers of the state legislature unanimously.

But such novel policies are, in many ways, a half-step toward addressing the crisis of teenage mental health that has been highlighted and exacerbated by the educational interruptions caused by the pandemic. Many parts of the country are woefully short of therapists who can work with students to address mental health problems.

Seventy percent of schools that responded to a federal survey in April said more students had sought mental health services since the pandemic started. The National C …

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