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Students could get five mental health days under new Illinois bill

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — It isn't uncommon for students to miss school for the flu or strep throat, but some Illinois lawmakers say the common "sick day" should be expanded further for mental health.

A new bill introduced to the Illinois Senate would mandate public schools to give students five sick days per year for mental and behavior health reasons.

"Sometimes people just need that time away to decompress some of their issues and maybe use that time to go find someone to talk to for help, utilize that time for just taking care of yourself," says Danielle Angileri, NAMI Northern Illinois executive director.

The bill comes with divided opinions from Rockford Senators Steve Stadelman and Dave Syverson.

"I think whatever we can to do make sure that student's mental health issues are addressed is incredibly important," says Sen. Steve Stadelman (D) - 34th District. "It will help ensure they are successful academically in the classroom and that's in everybody's interest, including the state."

"If it is something more serious, treatment may take more than five days," says Sen. Dave Syverson, (R) - 35th District. "That's why you have your sick days, your excused absence like you do in normal situations."

Sen. Syverson worries the bill would do more harm than good.

"If a child is feeling depressed, the last thing the child should be doing is then going home by themselves, or being home by themselves and dwelling on that issue all the more where it becomes a problem," says Syverson.

Sen. Stadelman says the plan should at least be explored, with student accountability being further understood.

Danielle Angileri for NAMI Northern Illinois says mental health and sick days should be one in the same and dividing them could create additional stigma.

"If you're having a medical problem, which a mental illness is, then you shouldn't have to kind of separate the two," Angileri says.

Angileri says, at the very least, more awareness is needed about metal health and the struggles for young people.

"Whenever they are learning about physical health, they should be learning about mental health as well," say Angileri.

The bill was proposed in January and members of the senate are still reviewing it.

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Alexxis Kerry

Alexxis Kerry is a multimedia journalist at 13 WREX. She joined the team in 2019 as a Quintern.

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