martwick 050521SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Robert Martwick (D-Chicago) is spearheading two measures to prioritize the mental health of students in schools.

Senate Bill 576 gives students the opportunity to take days off school to focus on their mental health without facing disciplinary action.

“When students are having mental health struggles, the last thing they need is the added stress of being penalized for missing school,” Martwick said. “Giving students the opportunity to make up their work allows them to stay on track and not feel the pressure of falling behind while trying to maintain a positive mental head space.”

Under the measure, public school students would be able to take excused absence days to prioritize their mental or behavioral health. Students who are granted an excused absence would be able to make up all work missed. The proposal comes as suicidal thoughts and mental health struggles among teens continues to rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of suicide in young people increased 56% from 2007 to 2017.

Additionally, Martwick is leading Senate Bill 577, which helps to identify students who may be at higher risk of mental health struggles that could lead to suicide. Students who may be at higher risk of suicide include those suffering from a mental health or substance abuse disorder, are experiencing housing struggles, or are part of the LGBTQ community.

“We must take notice of our students and the struggles they may face,” Martwick said. “People who are experiencing difficulties either in school or at home could be at higher risk of committing suicide – but simply noticing the added stressors they may endure could save their life.”

House Bill 576 and 577 passed the Senate Education Committee Tuesday and will now be considered by the full Senate.