As more school districts across the country implement programs to address student mental health, cutting through the stigma that surrounds this issue is a formidable challenge. Too often a discussion about mental health is constrained by uncomfortable silences, suggestions that teenagers are maybe just lazy or incapable of handling any sort of pressure, or just outright denial.
This past summer, a group of students in Oregon did their part to help open up the conversation. They successfully lobbied the state legislature to pass a law that added mental health to the list of excusable absences. When the bill was signed into law in June, Oregon joined Utah as the one of the only states in the country to establish mental health days for students.
To skeptics, the law seemed unnecessary (many schools already permit these absences) and liable to spark a surge in absentee students.