Teen activists in Oregon were behind the state legislation that will help end the stigma around mental illness.
As suicide rates hit a 50-year high, it has become increasingly clear that we need to take mental health seriously. According to the World Health Organization mental health issues will be the leading cause of death among young people by 2020.
In order to address this growing crisis, a group of teen activists in Oregon have helped pass a law that will allow students in their state to take excused days off of school for mental health reasons. The students hope this law will help breakdown the stigma around mental health.
“I took on this cause for a personal reason first off because so many of my close friends in high school struggled with depression, and there were times when I saw them at school when they really shouldn’t have been there, would have been much better for them to take a day off,” Hailey Hardcastle, a recent high school graduate and one of the activists who helped lobby for the new law, told TODAY.
The law, which will go into effect this fall will allow students five mental health days every three months. Currently, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10- to 34-year-olds in Oregon, outpacing the national average. According to the Associated Press this is believed to be the first law in the country to make mental health as important as physical health.
“We were inspired by Parkland in the sense that it showed us that young people can totally change the political conversation,” Hardcastle told AP. “Just like those movements, this bill is something completely coming from the youth.”
This law also adds to the growing movement to recognize the importance of young people’s mental health around the country. Utah passed a similar law last year to increase mental health services and Florida now requires schools to offer mental health classes at their schools starting in sixth grade.