Pay Equal Attention to Physical and Mental Health
One month into the 2019-2020 school year, local schools have probably received a number of notes from parents and doctors lending validity to student excuses for school absences. In July, Oregon became one of the first states to instruct schools to treat physical health and mental health absenteeism equally.
For students, by students
Oregon has had one of the highest suicide rates in the country for the past 30 years. Student activists lobbied for the new law which allows for five excused absences in a three-month period. The law is intended to reduce the stigma of emotional struggles and increase honesty surrounding teen mental health issues.
A local viewpoint
Stephanie Price, MSW, LISW, social worker for Cory-Rawson Local Schools, believes Oregon’s law will bring acknowledgement of mental illness, in particular depression and anxiety, as an excusable reason for missing school. “In addition, it creates equality for students seeking appointments with doctors or counselors and/or treatment, and allows the student to make up missed classwork without penalty,” she said. “Most mental health services function on a standard work week of Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm, with occasional evenings. For busy students involved in extracurricular activities, attending appointments outside of the school day can be difficult.”
A start that falls short
Price, however, points to problematic issues in the law as well. “The terms mental health and mental illness are different. Thus, there’s a grey area of what constitutes for an excused ‘mental health day’,” she says. In addition, common symptoms of depression and anxiety include isolation, avoidance, and lethargy. She adds, “Routine, structure, and socialization provided by the school can be therapeutic, while staying at home in bed without support people can actually add to the severity of depression and anxiety.”
Take-away for parents
In considering the emotional challenges of the 2019-2020 school year, Price offers proactive ways parents can encourage good mental health. “Don’t minimize the importance of the basics,” she said. “Help your children to structure their day with healthy habits of eating healthy foods, getting adequate sleep, and setting boundaries and limits with technology and social media. Work with your child to learn and practice using tools and techniques to help them manage stress, including deep breathing, journaling and engaging in movement. A 20 minute walk outdoors can do wonders!”
The Findlay area also offers numerous resources for mental health support. “Professional counseling can build coping skills and help children to proactively address difficult times. We can reduce a student’s pain before a concern leads to a diagnosis or even a more severe outcome,” says Price.
Local Mental Health Resources
Family Resource Center of Northwest Ohio
1941 Carlin St.
Mind Body Health Associates
220 Lima St.
Pathways Christian Counseling
230 W. Sandusky
FOCUS: Recovery and Wellness Community
509 W. Trenton Ave.
Psychiatric Center of Northwest Ohio
300 W. Wallace St., Suite B4
(419) 429 – 6480
Lutheran Social Services
1701 Tiffin Ave.
ProMedica Physicians Behavioral Health
1100 E Main Cross St.
A Renewed Mind Behavioral Health
1624 Tiffin Ave., Suite D