As the amount of money companies spend on the mental health of their employees continues to rise, there has been a movement among workersand employers alike to make mental health a priority and even to destigmatize such issues with “mental health days” off for professionals. Now the trend seems to be making its way into schools too.
A new Oregon law allows students there to take “mental health days” off from school, just as they would sick days.
Under the state’s new law, students can have up to five excused absences in a three-month period, which can now be either a sick day or a mental health day. However, anything beyond that will require a written excuse from a doctor or professional.
The bill was signed into law by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in June as Oregon looks to combat high suicide rates among teens. It is one of the first state laws to explicitly instruct all schools to treat mental health and physical health equally — Utah was the first to pass a similar law last year.
The Oregon bill was first introduced by a group of local high school students in February, who were inspired to change the stigma around mental health following the national youth-led movement on gun violence after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida killed 17 students and staff members last year.
“We were inspired by Parkland in the sense that it showed us that young people can totally change the political conversation,” Haily Hardcastle, 18, who helped to write the bill, told the Associated Press.
Hardcastle along with a group of other students said the measure is meant to change the stigma around mental health and help “encourage kids to admit when they’re struggling.”
Debbie Plotnik, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Mental Health America told AP that the law is an important step in challenging the way society approaches mental health issues.