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Bill allowing mental health days to have 'big impact' on students, expert says

Damien Sands, executive director at the South Lane Mental Health center in Cottage Grove, says students should know when to step back and pay attention to their mental health.

Posted: Jul 22, 2019 6:40 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill last month allowing Oregon public school students to take "mental health days," and one local expert says the new law will have a positive impact on students.

Whether it's anxiety, depression, feeling overwhelmed or spiraling out of control, Damien Sands, executive director at the South Lane Mental Health center in Cottage Grove, says students should know when to step back and pay attention to their mental health. 

RELATED: OREGON STUDENTS CAN TAKE 'MENTAL HEALTH DAYS'

"We've all been there," Sands said. "Everyone has gotten to that point where I just need to take a day to get myself settled, and so that I can come back in. What I like about this is that it can be more preventative, instead of not trying to take care of yourself and letting it get worse and worse."

South Lane Mental Health works with students elementary through high school with mental health issues. Sands says he works with kids in crisis on a daily basis and hopes that the new bill will help the growing suicide issue, where Oregon is 40% above the national average for suicides per year.  

"This has been an issue that has been up front and center and how children are being taken care of and how they're taking care of one another," Sands said. "I think something like this can have a big impact. The ability to give people permission to take care of themselves is a real gift."

Sands also says that he knows that he knows that taking "mental health days" will be abused by some students because it happens all the time with physical sickness. However, he knows there will be a handful of students who will take advantage of the new policies and use them for what it's intended for. 

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