Parents, educators and clinicians are seeing an alarming increase in mental health problems among young people. An ongoing topic of discussion among educators, medical health professionals and politicians is what can be done to curb this problem.
Following similar moves in Florida, Oregon and Utah, a recently introduced bill in the California State Legislature would allow students time off to treat or attend to mental health needs. Senate Bill 849, written by California State Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), would allow students in elementary school through high school time out of school to treat or attend to mental health needs without risk of being considered truant, a violation that could lead to penalties for students and fines for parents. Under California’s current education code, mental and behavioral health problems are not eligible for excused absences.
Studies show that a rising number of school-age children in California are struggling with depression, anxiety or thoughts of self-harm. According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24. The CDC reported in 2017 that the number of girls 15-19 committing suicide had doubled from 2007 to 2015. The statistics cited show 5.1 suicides per 100,000 in that age group — a 40-year high. The boys suicide rate in that age group climbed 30 percent, to 14.2 per 100,000, in the same time period.