Illinois is fighting the anxiety crisis by giving students five mental health days a year
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There is a mental health crisis among America's youth. Major depression in adolescents is up 47% for boys and 65% for girls since 2013 and suicide has increased a staggering 56% from 2007 to 2017 according to the National Federation of State High Schools.

Experts have yet to pin down the specific causes of this crisis but it's believed that increased pressure to succeed, unrealistic expectations caused by social media, and technology's effect on how humans connect may be contributing factors.

"Most experts would agree with me that there is more stress today than in previous generations. Stress triggers depression and mood disorders, so those who are predisposed to it by their creative wiring or genes are pretty much guaranteed some symptoms of depression at the confusing and difficult time of adolescence," Therese J. Borchard, author of "Beyond Blue," says.


"I think modern lifestyles — lack of community and family support, less exercise, no casual and unstructured technology-free play, less sunshine and more computer — factors into the equation," Borchard continues.

On top of the societal factors that have led to a decade-plus decline in mental health, the COVID-19 pandemic has also been hard on American youth.

Pritzker with President Biden earlier this year

To help children and teens better cope with the increased stress in their lives, the state of Illinois is now allowing students to take up to five mental health days per year without a doctor's note. The new law was signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week.

The bill passed the Illinois House and Senate unanimously.

Illinois now joins Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Virginia on the growing list of states that have passed similar bills.

The new law is a big step towards removing the stigma surrounding mental health by making it as important as students' physical well-being.

"It's critical that schools are offering support to students who struggle with their mental health," state Representative Barbara Henandez said in a statement. "Just as we would allow a student with a cold or fever to stay home from school, students should be able to have the same treatment for days where they need a break for their mental health."

Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, medical director of the Child Mind Institute, says we should use mental health days as a way to allow children to celebrate big achievements in school such as completing a big project.

However, if the child is suffering from anxiety or depression, Koplewicz believes that parents and faculty should refer to them as sick days instead of mental health days to remove the sigma.

"Sick days are sick days, whether it's physical or mental," he said.

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In addition to giving kids the mental breaks they desperately need, mental health days are a way to normalize self-care. When schools promote routines that prioritize mental health, they normalize these behaviors and teach children that their mental health is just as important as their physical.

It's great that multiple states are now putting the mental health of their students front and center, but the most important focus should be on fixing the societal problems that have led to the mental health decline in the first place.

Let's see what happens when we start giving kids technology-free days where they look at the world around them through their eyes, instead of a screen, and see how things begin to change.

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Macy's and Girls Inc. believe that all girls deserve to be safe, supported, and valued. However, racial disparities continue to exist for young people when it comes to education levels, employment, and opportunities for growth. Add to that the gender divide, and it's clear to see why it's important for girls of color to have access to mentors who can equip them with the tools needed to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.

Anissa Rivera is one of those mentors. Rivera is a recent Program Manager at the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc., a nonprofit focusing on the holistic development of girls ages 5-18. The goal of the organization is to provide a safe space for girls to develop long-lasting mentoring relationships and build the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to thrive now and as adults.

Rivera spent years of her career working within the themes of self and community empowerment with young people — encouraging them to tap into their full potential. Her passion for youth development and female empowerment eventually led her to Girls Inc., where she served as an agent of positive change helping to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

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Inspiring young women from all backgrounds is why Macy's has continued to partner with Girls Inc. for the second year in a row. The partnership will support mentoring programming that offers girls career readiness, college preparation, financial literacy, and more. Last year, Macy's raised over $1.3M for Girls Inc. in support of this program along with their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programming for more than 26,000 girls. Studies show that girls who participated are more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, score higher on standardized math tests, and be more equipped for college and campus life.

Thanks to mentors like Rivera, girls across the country have the tools they need to excel in school and the confidence to change the world. With your help, we can give even more girls the opportunity to rise up. Throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases or donate online to support Girls Inc. at Macys.com/MacysGives.

Who runs the world? Girls!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

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Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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