Back in February, four high school students from Oregon, introduced a bill that would allow students to take off up to five “mental health days” in a three-month period. The successfully bill passed in June.
Sam Adamson, Lori Riddle, Hailey Hardcastle, and Derek Evans were all inspired to push this legislation after last year’s shooting in Parkland. According to the Oregon Health Authority, “suicide continues to be a persistent problem in Oregon.”
According to Oregon.gov, there are more than 650 suicides in Oregon each year and more than 2,100 hospitalizations due to suicide attempts. Their Adolescents and Young Adult Suicides Fact Sheet also states that not only was suicide the second leading cause of death among persons 10-24 years of age in Oregon in 2013, but the most common circumstance surrounding suicide incidents was “mentioned mental health problems” (65%).
Statistics like these drove the Oregon students to de-stigmatize the conversations about mental health in schools.
Miranda, a 9th grader in Sacramento, says California should implement a law like Oregon’s.
“If a student is stressed about school and assignments, the student can have that ability to take a day off and get everything together. Maybe something is wrong at home; the student has days they can take for themselves to be mentally prepared to enter a hectic environment.”
Others demand real change, like more funding for mental health resources and training’s for educators.
Erin Duarte, a mother and teacher for the Sacramento City Unified School District, says this law is not solving any problems regarding the mental health crisis in our country.
“This is a way of pretending to meet students’ needs without actually doing anything. Mental health, and those suffering from a crisis, needs to be actively addressed not simply giving a student a day off. Also, the kids who often come to school and are suffering trauma or mental health issues don’t have access to an adult able to help them. Staying home isolates them.” Said Erin Duarte.
According to Cal Matters, California saw a 40% spike in hospitalizations due to mental health emergencies over the past decade, among youth. They also reported that children living in California, ages 12 to 17, experience a “major depressive episode at a rate higher than the national average”.
“What needs to happen is that funding is given for students and families to have access to psychologists, social workers, and nurses while all school staff needs to be trained in recognizing mental health concerns and what to do when they are aware of a student who may be suffering.”
Whether this new law opens more discussion throughout Oregon schools about mental health and allows for de-stigmatization, the country has a lot of work to do in order to help our mental health crisis. Luckily, students like Sam, Lori, Hailey, and Derek give this movement hope.