Oregon students lead grass-roots effort to pass ‘mental health’ legislation

Grace Gremel, Staff Writer

Sometimes students stay home “ill” when what they are really feeling isn’t an impending cold or the shivers from a full-blown flu bug — instead, they just need a mental break.

Oregon now permits students to miss school days for mental health reasons. Passed in June, the new law took effect on July 1 and will allow students to have five excused absences in a three-month period for mental health reasons. This legislation was prompted by a group of students who advocated for mental health to be of the same importance as physical health — especially since the suicide rate in Oregon has outpaced the national average for the last three decades.

Now a multitude of people are questioning if mental health days should be allowed.

“I think it would be good to have a set number of days that you are allowed,” sophomore Haddiqa Khan said. “I don’t think you should have too many because kids are gonna take advantage of it. [However] I know some people who could have used some mental health days in the last year.”

Other students say that mental health days will only make school worse.
“If you take days off, you’re gonna have to catch up, which means more stress,” junior

Isabelle Somera said. “I don’t think they would be overly [beneficial].”
Some psychologists have associated the rise of depression and anxiety in teenagers with

an increase in social media use, academic pressures, scary events such as school shootings and terrorist attacks.

“With social media, you may not be looking for validation, but you’re getting validation,” Khan said. “That can be very toxic. People can be so negative online because they are anonymous.”

For 10 to 34-year-olds, suicide is now considered to be the second leading cause of death in Americans. From 2007 to 2016, the rate of suicide has increased by 56 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the ages previously stated.

“Mental health days for students sound amazing,” junior Peter Lucio said. “High school students are going through a lot. For example, from my knowledge at least 85 percent of students are suffering from sleep deprivation [which] can cause mental health issues.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 32 percent of Californians in high school have reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row. The suicide rate in California is 10.5 percent and the state ranks lower than 44 of the 50 other states.

“I hope [the law in Oregon for mental health days] works,” AP Psychology teacher Lana Gentry said. “I certainly couldn’t predict if it would, but it’s a very simple thing to do for kids. It doesn’t cost any money, and hopefully, [the students in Oregon] will get a lot of benefit from that.”