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Mental Health Days for Students

August 11, 2019 by

Suicide is a complex problem in the United States. There are a lot of factors that go into one’s risk of having suicidal tendencies, and there are also protective factors that can help protect people from becoming suicidal. These risk and protective factors can change over time and vary depending on demographics.

There have been several studies that have looked at possible ways to prevent suicide among various groups, such as veterans, college students, and mental health patients. Findings have suggested that there are a lot of strategies that could possibly help prevent suicide attempts, especially when they’re used alongside a carefully planned out treatment program.

One idea that has come up recently is to pay more attention to mental health, especially in youth. Students and young people are often hesitant to disclose their emotions, especially if they are depressing or discouraging. However, when people bottle up these negative emotions and don’t seek help from an outside source, they may turn to suicide to end their pain.

Effective suicide prevention is both complex and comprehensive. Efforts need to be made in unison to address the various aspects of the issue. Mental health promotion is a large part of suicide prevention that is often overlooked. Because depression can be an “invisible” disease, it can sometimes go unnoticed by onlookers. However, to bring more attention to the importance of mental health and to acknowledge the role that it plays in the overall wellbeing of youth, new laws have been created in our country that will hopefully begin to spread throughout the states.

Oregon has recently passed the first law of its kind in the United States, allowing students to take an excused day off from school for mental health or behavioral health reasons. This bill is meant to help change the stigma around mental health, partly because of rising suicide rates.

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the US, affecting over 16 million Americans, and is the number one cause of poor health and disability around the world. Between 1999 and 2016, the rate of suicide increased by an average of 28% across the US, with some states experiencing an increase of over 30%. One large factor that could play into this is the rise of social media usage among youth and the frequency of cyber bullying. It is much easier these days for kids to be cruel to their peers when they are doing it behind a computer screen.

Oregon’s second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 34 is suicide. In fact, studies have shown that 17% of eighth-graders reported contemplating suicide over the past year. With this large increase in suicide, politicians and health professionals have recognized that some sort of action needs to be taken in order to reduce these statistics and prevent suicide attempts from increasing around our country.

Oregon residents who supported this new bill said they were inspired in part by the student-led movement that occurred after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Oregon residents stood behind the bill to encourage youth to speak up when they’re struggling with their mental health.

Most states only excuse absences related to physical illness, and absences unexcused absences can lead to detention, which can then cause students to fall behind in school. Opponents of the new Oregon law say this new policy may encourage students to skip school, but those who support the bill claim that it will invite a more open conversation about mental health and urge students to reach out for help when they are faced with a problem.

While some people are able to hide their suicidal thoughts, even from their families, it is important to know how to recognize warning signs and know how to help someone if they are exhibiting them. According to the CDC, there are 12 warning signs that suggest someone may be contemplating suicide. These are:

  • Feeling like a burden
  • Isolating oneself
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling stuck or in severe pain
  • Substance abuse
  • Looking for a method of suicide
  • Increased anger
  • Extreme mood swings
  • A sense of hopelessness
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Suggesting wanting to die
  • Making suicide plans

Hopefully other states will follow in Oregon’s footsteps and start to take action against suicide and to promote positive mental health.

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