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Mental health days: How teens changed the law in Oregon

Mental health graphic Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The new rule is the first of its kind

Students in Oregon will be able to take mental health days in the same way they would take sick days under a new law.

It's after four teenagers successfully campaigned for the American state to introduce the legislation.

Pupils will be able to have up to five days off every three months for "issues with mental or behavioural health".

The group behind it say they aimed "to change the stigma around mental health".

Image copyright Jessica Adamson / Providence Health & Services
Image caption Sam Adamson, Lori Riddle, Hailey Hardcastle and Derek Evans (l-r) have also called for tighter gun rules and a lower voting age in Oregon

Hailey Hardcastle, an 18-year-old from Portland who helped champion the mental health bill, says she and the other members of the group put the proposal together in an effort to "encourage kids to admit when they're struggling".

According to data from Oregon's Health Authority, nearly 17% of eighth-graders (13 and 14-year-olds) had reported seriously contemplating taking their lives in the past 12 months.

Until now, schools there were only obliged to excuse absences related to physical illnesses.

Although lots of businesses in the UK are becoming more open about discussing mental health, there is no law which forces schools or employers to recognise mental health issues as an excuse for having a day off.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There are no similar laws in the UK

Hailey and the other teen campaigners, Sam Adamson, Lori Riddle and Derek Evans, have had criticism from parents in the state who suggest the law will encourage students to find more excuses to miss school.

Some say students could already take "mental health days" by lying or just pretending to be ill.

But Hailey says those views miss the point of the new law - and that students are more likely to open up about how they're feeling if they know mental health issues are being formally recognised by their school.

"Why should we encourage lying to our parents and teachers?

"Being open to adults about our mental health promotes positive dialogue that could help kids get the help they need."

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