Trigger Warning: This article touches on the topic of suicide.
The state of Oregon is now letting students take time off school due to their mental health. Previously, the state only allowed this for physical illness.
According to APNews, the bill was passed thanks to some students who are trying to change the negative stigma surrounding mental health. This is a big move for students in the state which has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. In fact, they're 40 percent higher than the national average. Oregon isn't alone in passing laws that promote mental health as Utah passed a similar bill last year. The goal is simple, give mental health the same legitimacy as physical health.
"We need to say it’s just as OK to take care for mental health reasons as it is to care for a broken bone or a physical illness,” says vice president Mental Health America Debbie Plotnik.
The new provisions don't quite put mental health on the same footing as physical, however. While it is a step in the right direction, the bill allows students to take five days off for this reason. After the fifth day, they need a hand-written note.
Despite this, however, others argued that students could take those days off anyway — they'd just lie to parents. The students behind the bill say this allows them to be more open with their caregivers. This opens up a discussion and helps to make treatment, and the conversation about it easier.
This law came at a good time, too as students are under more pressure than ever. According to author and principal John Marsden, says while students are achieving higher grades than ever, and they're more politically active than previous generations, they're under more stress than ever. He blames toxic "curling parents" who try to brush obstacles away from their kids — like a curling rock.
While the causes for poor mental health vary, this is a big step for students in the state. Depression, anxiety, and other issues are especially common in teens, but until recently, the topic has been off-limits for many children, and while its still considered an "adult issue", this law could spark a change.
For anyone struggling, there is always help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255 and the Crisis Text Line is 741-741.