By Giles Bruce, Photo: Giles Bruce/Kaiser Health News, National Public Radio, June 10, 2022
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 classwork.
"I'm somebody who struggles with my mental health quite a bit," said the 17-year-old, who attends school in Schaumburg, Ill., a 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.