Parents, educators and clinicians are seeing an alarming increase in mental health problems among young people. Various national surveys show the rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide on the rise, but what to do about it is less clear.
In July of 2019, Oregon passed a bill that allows students to take excused absences for mental health related issues. Students advocated for the bill, saying it would reduce stigma about mental health issues, and encourage young people to seek the treatment they need.
Now, the California legislature is considering something similar. State Senator Anthony Portantino has introduced a bill that would change the education code to allow for mental health related excused absences. For him, mental health is a personal issue.
“I had a brother who took his own life,” Portantino said. “And one of the reasons I talk about it is so people understand that mental health issues affect all of us.”
He says anything that reduces stigma could go a long way to prevent tragedies like the one his family suffered.
“It’s not the time to be shy. It’s the time to bring these conversations out of the shadows so we can help those who need it.”
Portantino isn’t concerned that students will abuse the excused absences. If anything, he thinks it will take a lot of convincing to help families drop the barriers they hold around mental health.
But what would this really mean to schools?