Senator proposes excusable mental health day absences for students

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Students could soon be entitled to a mental health day during the school year.

Manhattan state Sen. Brad Hoylman has introduced new legislation, proposing that schools throughout New York state offer students a mental health day.

Current law requires districts to develop their own attendance policies, but Hoylman's legislation would allow an excusable mental health absence.

He says that the idea is to encourage students who might not otherwise seek treatment to prioritize their mental health.

"We need to recognize suicide and self-harm among young New Yorkers as the major public health crisis that it is, demolish the stigma around mental health care, and do everything within our power to help kids who are struggling seek treatment," says Sen. Hoylman.

Teresa Grella-Hillebrand, who is part of Hofstra University's Counseling and Mental Health Professions Clinic, says allowing students to take mental health days can teach students that it's OK to talk about stress and de-stigmatize mental illness.

"The more we talk about things and normalize that everyone has ups and downs, or periods of time when they may have difficulty with dealing with stress or feeling sad, or having the blues or whatever you want to call it, then you know, maybe we don't have to look at it as something that has to be kept private," says Grella-Hillebrand.

Minnesota, Utah and Oregon have already passed laws offering students mental health days.

Renata Mendonca, a teacher in the Westbury school district, says mental health days could benefit New York students as well.

Sen. Hoylman says the state Department of Education would have to implement the change if the bill is passed.

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