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As of the new school year, children and teenagers in Oregon will be allowed to take up to 5 mental health days every 3 months in an effort to reduce stigma around mental health. Four teens from Oregon took matters into their own hands by passing a new law which allows teenagers to take mental health days as they would if they were suffering from a physical illness.

Hailey Hardcastle, one of the teens responsible for passing the law, suggested that she at first took on the battle for “personal reasons” having seen many of her friends suffering from depression and being in school when they could have benefited from a day off. Hardcastle states that “Children are already missing school for mental health reasons, the thing is, they’re lying about it. They’re doing the old-school pretending they had a fever, or they’re sick, or a headache.”

In a 2019 report by the Guardian Newspaper in the UK, it was reported that: In a survey of 8,600 school leaders, teachers and support workers, 83% said they had witnessed an increase in the number of children in their care with poor mental health, rising to 90% among students in colleges.

By opening up the conversation about mental health within schools and providing young people the ability to express that they are struggling, the hope is that there will be less stigma in schools around mental health and more young people will feel comfortable reaching out when they are having a difficult time. It should also allow children to feel more comfortable talking to their parents about what is going on rather than pretending to have a cold in order to stay home, which should mean better support for those struggling both in the home and at school.

Currently there are no similar laws in the UK which requires schools or businesses to acknowledge mental health problems as a valid reason to have a day off, however companies are beginning to open the conversation around mental health with employees and so this may be the direction they take in the future. Most people with ongoing mental health problems meet the definition of disability in the Equality Act (2010) and the Disability Discrimination Act (1995, as amended). This means that people with mental health problems are protected from discrimination and harassment and are entitled to reasonable adjustments to adapt their job or work.

At The Eaves, we have a body of over 100 highly qualified Counsellors and Psychologists. If you are a teen or a parent of a child struggling with a mental health condition and would like further support from a professional, please contact any of the numbers above and a member of our friendly client services team will be happy to help point you in the right direction of a professional who can help you.