Students in Oregon Can Now Take Mental Health Days in Addition to Sick Days

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When I was growing up, you had to basically fake your own death to get out of going to school, complete with a fake fever and some over-dramatized coughing. But now, students can just take a “mental health day” if they need one — as long as they live in one of these two states.

Oregon has passed a law to allow students to take mental health days, just like they would take sick days. The bill was passed last month, following a similar law passed by Utah in 2018. These laws are the first of their kind, mental health experts say.

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The measures are designed to reduce the stigma around mental health by forcing schools to take students’ mental health as seriously as their physical health. Oregon has some of the highest suicide rates in the country; suicide is the state’s second leading cause of death among those ages 10 to 34.

“The first step to confront this crisis is to reduce the stigma around it,” Debbie Plotnik, executive director of Mental Health Aerica, told NBC News.

“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.”

Oregon’s new bill was spearheaded by young student activists, who were inspired by the national youth-led movement after the Parkland school shooting.

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“We were inspired by Parkland in the sense that it showed us that young people can totally change the political conversation,” 18-year-old lobbyist Haily Hardcastle said. “Just like those movements, this bill is something completely coming from the youth.”

The new law permits up to five excused absences for mental health in a three month period. Anything more requires a written note to the principal.

Hopefully, this bill will inspire similar measures around the country.