Oregon Students Now Allowed to Take ‘Mental Health Days’

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In the first law of its kind, Oregon will begin to allow students to take “mental health days” just as they would sick days, in an attempt to change the stigma surrounding the subject. A group of students helped drive the bill to pass in the Oregon state legislature, citing the youth-movement led by Parkland High School students that followed last year as inspiration. 

Haily Hardcaste, an 18-year old from the suburbs of Portland, was one of the students involved in introducing and lobbying to get this law passed. She told NBC News, “We were inspired by Parkland in the sense that it showed us that young people can totally change the political conversation. Just like those movements, this bill is something completely coming from the youth.”

Photo by kyo azuma on Unsplash

The students behind the bill don’t wish for people to view it as coddling, but rather as serving an important staging ground for removing the stigma surrounding the discussion of mental health among the country’s students. Experts say that this is the first law in the country to explicitly deal with mental health among students, effectively treating it on the same level as physical health. 

Mental health is a hot topic for young adults in Oregon, with suicide being the second leading cause of death among ages 10 – 34, according to data gathered by the state Health Authority. One survey showed 17% of eighth-graders reported themselves as seriously considering taking their lives at one point within the past 12 months. 

While suicide rates in Oregon are high, data shows that is not an isolated occurrence. Suicide has been on the rise for some time now, recently hitting a 50-year high. Suicide rates have increased by more than 30% since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

Under this newly passed law, students in Oregon will now be able to have up to five absences excused in a three month period. Previously, schools were only obliged to excuse absences only related to physical illnesses. Excused absences are necessary if students are to miss tests, projects, or homework assignments without it affecting their grades.

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