Oregon students able to take 'mental health day' under new bill

Oregon students able to take 'mental health day' under new bill
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A new bill in Oregon will give students the ability to take a “mental health day,” and it will count as an excused absence.

The law will allow for excused school absences due to mental or behavioral health and is widely believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country, according to The Associated Press.

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The bill, signed last month by Gov. Kate Brown (D), will give students the ability to take up to five excused absences in a three-month span for mental health reasons. Any additional absences will require a written excuse.

Most schools were previously only able to excuse absences related to physical illnesses.

The bill came before the Oregon statehouse and was ultimately passed after prodding from student activists.

Haily Hardcastle, 18, said she and other student activists were partly motivated by the youth-led movement that followed the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year.

"We were inspired by Parkland in the sense that it showed us that young people can totally change the political conversation," she told the AP. "Just like those movements, this bill is something completely coming from the youth."

Additionally, the issue of mental health among youth is particularly salient in Oregon, as suicide is the second leading cause of death in the state among those ages 10 to 34, the AP notes.

Hardcastle said the new law will give students the opportunity to be open and honest about their struggles.

"Why should we encourage lying to our parents and teachers?" she said. "Being open to adults about our mental health promotes positive dialogue that could help kids get the help they need."