‘I broke down’: new law will let students take mental health days

Aug 26, 2019 by

Move aims to change the culture surrounding mental health at a time when suicide is the second leading cause for death among 15-to-34 year olds

On a Saturday evening at the beginning of her senior year in high school in north-western Oregon, Lori Riddle started having trouble breathing. She was helping with a dance for freshman students, when her peripheral vision began to fade and she started shaking and crying.

“It was just the feeling of being around people, I felt trapped almost,” said Riddle, now 18 years old and headed to the University of Nevada. “I broke down and I ran outside.”

It was one of many panic attacks she would have during the school year.

With the help of her mom, she saw a counselor, but high school rules came with their own sets of challenges. Since excused absences were reserved for physical ailments or emergencies, on days when Riddle was feeling especially bad, her mom would have to lie about why she needed to miss school and say she was sick or cite a family emergency.

According to state law, Oregon students are allowed five days of excused absences within a three-month period, but unexcused absences can come with grade penalties and even loss of class credit.

Riddle said the secrecy made her feel awful, but it also meant her school wasn’t aware of what she was going through. It ultimately fell to her to alert teachers and staff about her anxiety, so she could get the support she needed in school.

“Just because I was able to do that, doesn’t mean that every other student can,” she said. “I know for me that was really hard, and a lot of students can’t even see that as imaginable.”

Now, after a months-long legislative push by students like Riddle, the situation is about to change.

Source: ‘I broke down’: new law will let students take mental health days | US news | The Guardian

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