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Illinois to allow students 5 mental health days—Here's what parents should know

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As part of National Farm Safety and Health Week 2021, SIU Medicine reaffirms their dedication to farm safety and health. This week and throughout the year, our team of physicians and academic professionals strive to raise awareness about mental health care for adults and children throughout southern Illinois. It was in this spirit of community care that SIU School of Medicine created the pioneering program, the Farm Family Resource Initiative.

Illinois allows kids 5 mental health days off from school

A child in Illinois can soon take up to 5 days off from school for mental or behavioral health reasons without the need for a doctor's note. Under a new law—which comes into effect January 2022—children who take a mental health day will also be given the chance to make up any missed work during their absence.

Similar bills have passed recently in other states, including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Virginia—and such efforts are timely. Between March and May 2020, mental health-related ER visits for kids aged 12 to 17 jumped by 31%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For kids aged 5 to 11 years old during the same time period, there was a 24% increase.

Our team at SIU Medicine recognizes the many potential benefits of mental health days—from reducing stress to avoiding burnout to improving access to care. And in light of the unusual challenges young people face in the pandemic era—including anxiety, family financial strain, loss of loved ones, social distancing and remote learning—we believe this legislation has the potential to make a positive impact.

Could your child use a break? Here are 10 mental health signs to look out for

Neither you nor your child has to experience a significant decline mental health in order to benefit from a mental health day. Taking a break to relax, rest, and play is a good idea for all of us.

But if you notice any of the following signs or symptoms in your kid, it could mean their mental health is suffering. Talk to your pediatrician if you're worried about your child's:

  1. Persistent sadness (lasting for two weeks or more)
  2. Withdrawal from social interactions
  3. Self-harming behaviors
  4. Discussions about death or suicide
  5. Unusual or extreme irritability
  6. Escalating, high risk behaviors
  7. Drastic change in mood, personality, weight, and/or eating or sleeping habits
  8. Frequent headaches or stomachaches
  9. Problems concentrating
  10. Sudden change in academic performance and/or truancy

No one farms alone—Get the resources you need to support yourself and your family

Are you a farm family in Illinois looking for more healthy resources? Explore the Farm Family Resource Initiative today. If you are a farmer or a farm family in need of support, call the SIU Medicine Farm Family Resource Initiative free and confidential helpline at 1-833-FARM-SOS (1-833-327-6767).

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