New Hampshire is considering mental health days for college students

The New Hampshire State House. Pamela Wright

CONCORD, NH (AP) — A woman whose teenage son committed suicide in 2017 called on the New Hampshire legislature on Tuesday to pass legislation that would allow kindergarten through 12th-grade students.

Martha Dickey told the State House Education Committee that the bill would complement two other proposals she was campaigning for: a law passed last year that would add the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to the back of each student ID card, and a law of 2019, which requires schools to develop policies and provide staff training on suicide prevention. The former was named the Jason Dickey Suicide Prevention Act in honor of her son, who died at the age of 19.

Dickey said the new proposal would help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and raise awareness that such conditions often interfere with a child’s education.

“A mental health day is not intended for a student to avoid classes or assignments, but an approved mental health absence can help open the door for schools to help students with general mental health care issues,” said she.

Twelve other states have similar laws and others are considering doing so, said Emma Sevigny of New Futures, a health advocacy group.

“Removing this barrier of having an absence on their report card removes the stigma of mental illness and also improves students’ ability to make that time without fear of negative repercussions on their grades and other aspects of their education.” , said Sevigny, the organization’s policy coordinator for children’s behavioral health.

No one spoke out against the bill, which has both Republican and Democrat sponsors, at the public hearing. This bipartisan support bodes well at a time when the House of 400 is almost evenly split between the two parties.



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