With child mental health problems on the rise in the past few years, a growing number of states have adopted laws that let students take an excused absence if they feel anxious, depressed or need a day to “recharge.”
A dozen states already have measures in place that allow kids to take off for mental health and not just physical health reasons. A handful of others* are considering making similar changes to school absentee rules.
The move is a recognition of a disquieting trend: In December 2021, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy issued an advisory declaring a mental health crisis for American children, citing “an alarming number” of young people struggling with “feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide.” Between March and October 2020, the height of the pandemic, the percentage of children visiting the emergency room for mental health issues rose 24 percent for children ages 5 to 11 and 31 percent for children ages 12 to 17, according to the Children’s Hospital Association.