LANSING, Mich., Oct 28, 2021 – State Representative Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) introduced new legislation today that would grant Michigan students up to five mental health days. Under the legislation, a pupil must be given the opportunity to make up any schoolwork they missed during one of these absences. No medical note is necessary to substantiate the need for a mental health day.
The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the existing mental health crisis in Michigan, taking an especially severe toll on children and young people. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a 24% increase in mental health emergency visits among kids 5 to 11 years of age and a 31% increase among kids 12 to 17 years of age between March and May of last year alone.
Just last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association issued a joint statement declaring a national state of emergency in children’s mental health. The declaration cited, among other things, soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness and suicidality. In addition, it highlights a dramatic increase in Emergency Department visits for all mental health emergencies, including suspected suicide attempts.
For Anthony, this declaration and call to action comes as no surprise. “We all have young people in our lives who are important to us, and it’s clear the last couple of years are weighing heavily on their shoulders. Kids today are forced to deal with unprecedented levels of trauma and emotional stress — from gun violence to financial instability to racial unrest. This bill would signal that there’s nothing wrong with taking some time and space to get help — something far too many of us could benefit from — no matter our age.”
Anthony’s bill would bring Michigan in line with several other states that allow excused absences for mental or behavioral health reasons, including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Virginia.