PHOENIX - Lawmakers in Arizona are pushing for students to get mental health days, as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic takes a toll on more than their physical health.
SB1097 was first introduced in March 2020, just as the pandemic was starting. Back then, the bill failed to pass, but a week ago, it passed in the State Senate unanimously. The bill's author says he is confident it will succeed this time around.
While the proposal would leave specific policies up to each school district, the proposed mental health days will be much like sick days.
On Feb. 1 FOX 10 spoke with officials with Teen Lifeline. They say anxiety and depression have gone up in the last year since the pandemic started, and now is the right time to take action and help kids.
"To make sure that we understand the parity between physical and mental health, that when we take care of our health, we need to and also remember that mental health and brain health is just as important as other physical ailments that we have," said Nikki Kontz.
Kontz says the bill sends the message that mental health is valued.
"Where it's not like I'm sick in the physical sense, but understanding the importance of taking care of ourselves mentally and having the other appointments or meeting with other doctors or treatment teams, especially for those kids who need inpatient support hospitalization or intensive treatment," said Kontz.
In 2019, officials with the Arizona Department of Health Services reported that 38 children ages eight to 17 died by suicide in the state. While the numbers for 2020 are not released yet, Kontz says that depression and anxiety have skyrocketed.
Experts say there are many warning signs that a child may need help.
"They're sleeping more, they're in their room more, they're isolating more, they're eating less or eating differently, they're not spending as much time with you, they're really angry," said Rosanne Marmor with Pulse Wellness.
If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 (Crisis Text Line)
CLICK HERE for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Call 1-800-273-TALK for free and confidential emotional support.