Mental health will soon be built in for Illinois students


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – After a year of isolation and online learning, kids are headed back to the classroom. That change can bring excitement, but it can bring anxiety too.

“Often our mental health is impacted by lots of things, but certainly our brain can have things going wrong, and this can be exacerbated by stress, lack of sleep, or something like a pandemic,” Marilee Johnson, owner and therapist for Child and Family Counseling of Champaign, said.

Now, kids in the state are getting more help and understanding when it comes to their mental health. Governor Pritzker signed a new bill that will give each student 5 automatic mental health days for the school year. Something Johnson said can make a difference in a child’s life.

“I think it’s important that mental health is just the same as health,” she said. “I think kids need the option to have that rest, or to check in with a doctor, or therapist. Do some self-care things. Mental health is really important, and kids are pressured these days, and they need that to be well.”

At the start of the pandemic, mental health emergencies skyrocketed. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mental health emergencies rose 24% for kids ages 5 to 11 and 31% for kids 12 to 17 in the months March through May, something people of all ages deal with.

“I think it’s super important. I mean personally, I struggle it with myself. I have OCD, so I know the realm of a little bit,” Isaac Stillman, a sophomore at U of I, said.

“I myself struggle with mental health, like anxiety, depression, that kind of stuff,” Kailey Alonzo, a U of I student, said.

They said taking the days and the self care is important.

“There is help out there. It might not be super apparent, but there are resources and help out there for people that want to find, and you should get help if you feel like you need it,” Stillman said.

“it’s just a hard day, not a hard life. As long as you get through this one day, not all the days are going to be the same. So, just keep fighting,” Weronika Michniewicz, a student, said.

Many people also hope this bill will help break the stigma around mental health.

The new bill will go into effect January 2022.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.