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Senate Bill 249 becomes law to give Nevada students mental health days

SB 249 SIGNING
Posted at 4:12 PM, Jun 07, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Taking a break to deal with the stress and pressure. Students in Nevada will now be allowed to have some time away from the classroom.

A Senate bill signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak is paving the way to address student mental health head-on and try to save lives in the process.

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The pandemic has been a roller coaster for so many students and it was no different for these students from Bishop Gorman High School.

“We went from such busy schedules to a whole completely different world,” Lauren Edgeworth said.

A world where schools shifted to distance learning and not being able to see friends as often. The students say this has caused their peers to take mental health days as unexcused absences.

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“A break from the schoolwork and the pressure. Sometimes it’s like taking a sick day. It’s just as important as your physical health,” Caroline Edgeworth said.

Now, it will be easier. Senate Bill 249 was signed into law by Gov. Sisolak Monday. It will allow mental and behavioral health professionals to excuse student absences from school and gives every student three mental health days.

“If students are taking a couple of mental health days, maybe check up on them. Make sure everything is going alright with them,” Sydney Yee, a Bishop Gorman student, said.

Nevada Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop a sponsor of the bill says the experiences with her own grandchildren emphasized the need to give students help.

“I’ve watched them even this year struggle with their studies and emotionally as they were away from their friends and all their activities,” she said.

Dr. Sheldon Jacobs, a certified mental health professional, says the legislation comes at a good time. He says in recent months, he gets at least two to three calls a day from parents whose kids may be dealing with depression or anxiety. Dr. Jacobs believes he and other mental health doctors will play an active role in giving mental health days.

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“As a mental health professional, I think it puts us at more of the forefront in ensuring that our youth are mentally well," he said.

He says professionals like himself will be gatekeepers to ensure no student is playing hooky from school.

“As professionals, we’ll know hopefully right away if a youth is actually really having a mental health issue or not,” Dr. Jacobs said.

The Bishop Gorman students believe this new law can advance the conversation about student mental health and give their peers an option if they need it.

“Just having those mental health days as just kind of a backup in case you need something to lean on I think is a really great resource," Caroline Edgeworth said.

The new law will also have student IDs be printed with hotlines for local and national mental health crisis resources.