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BACK TO SCHOOL: new Oregon bill lets students take mental health days

Students will be allowed to take mental health days, just like sick days. Mental health absences will be excused.

Posted: Aug 19, 2019 6:29 PM
Updated: Aug 19, 2019 6:36 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. --  A new mental health bill passed in July. Whether it's depression or anxiety, the purpose of the new bill is to teach students it's okay to take a step back when it's needed.

Oregon's suicide rates are 40% above the national average and rising. The state health authority said suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10 to 34. Experts said the bill came just in time for the new school year.

The way it works: students can take "mental health days" just as they would sick days. Previously schools only excused absences due to physical illness. High school students actually came up with the idea. The youth leaders created the bill in hopes of responding to a mental health crisis in schools by encouraging kids to admit when they're struggling.

NewsWach12 spoke with the Medford School District about how this will impact students here. Natalie Hurd, the school district's representative, said it all starts by letting students know it's okay to talk about mental health.

Hurd said, "By putting that into policy they hope, and we hope, students will feel comfortable talking about mental illness just as they would any other type of illness."

Being open about mental health promotes honesty that can help kids get the help they need. Experts said these mental health conversations are what can save a life. 

"We have certified mental health counselors here at our schools that are there to give help to the students, free of charge," Hurd explained. "Hopefully this will start a conversation at home with families that it’s okay to talk about this and it’s also okay to talk about it at school."

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