School, Sports, Work – How Mental Health Can Impact Physical Success

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Oregon continues to pave the way in progressiveness with states like Utah and Florida not far behind. Last month, Governor Kate Brown signed into law a bill that “lets students take up to five mental health days every three months, although school districts are free to create their own schedules. Students will also be granted permission to make up any tests they may have missed.”(2) The law should be going into effect Fall 2019. 

This bill was first introduced by Hailey Hardcastle and a group of local high school students in February, who were inspired to change the stigma around mental health following the national youth-led movement on gun violence after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. where 17 students and staff members were killed last year. (4) They argue that students are already taking days off from school due to mental health but are lying to their parents and teachers about it by stating they have the flu, a headache or other typically physical illnesses. This law will take the burden off students and allow them to seek the medical care they actually require—that is the hope, at least. 

In a state where suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 10- to 34-year-olds (2), mental health is becoming more and more of a priority, and rightfully so. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The WHO states that “there is no health without mental health.” 

(6) Multiple studies have shown that mental health has a direct impact on physical ailments: “depression has been linked to a 50 percent increase in a person’s risk of dying from cancer and a 67 percent increase from heart disease” (5), while other mental health disorders can decrease your life expectancy anywhere from 10-20 years (8). If you refer to the image below (7), you will see all the link between certain mental health disorders and specific physical ailments. This graphic, and further research, shows that mental disorders can increase your susceptibility to physical illnesses via the interactions in the brain and the direct impact on hormones and other bodily functions.

In regards to mental health and the level of care offered, Oregon ranks 44th overall in the US; this means that we have some of the highest prevalences of mental health disorders partnered with some of the least access to care (9). 

If you look at adult data only, Oregon falls to 48th place whereas regarding youths it’s in 41st, not much of an improvement. If you look at the prevalence of mental illness overall for adults and youth combined, the state falls into last place ranked at 51(9). These statistics prove that we have an epidemic of mental health issues in our state and aren’t doing enough to curb it. 

This law is one of the first to start addressing this issue and hopefully push for more access to health providers, both in cost and number of providers available.

Mental health is a serious subject that should be given more importance and direct action across the board. Positive mental health has a direct correlation to higher productivity, improvement in quality of work, and creates a better environment overall. So whether it be performance in school, sports, or work, an emphasis on positive mental health creates better outputs and more success. 

This would then have a direct impact on our success as a nation; more people happy and willing to do their best—as well as gaining the ability to focus on school matters and not their fatigue—could increase test scores as well as possible graduation rates. The same scenario but in the workplace could increase capital output and would possibly lower turnover. Athletes would likely see increases in their PRs and could end up winning more worldwide events such as the Olympics, The French Open, The World Cup or others.

It is clear to see that physical and mental health go hand in hand. Their results impact several aspects of our day-to-day life as well as success both individually and as a nation. As more bills like this or HB 2192, which would direct school districts and public charter schools to require every student in grades 6 through 12 to undergo mental health wellness check once each school year (10) get introduced, and passed, Oregon will slowly be on the path to resolving its mental health crisis. 


Resources: 

(1)https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/feeling-blue-oregon-students-mental-health-days-64470354

(2)https://www.today.com/health/oregon-passes-law-letting-students-take-mental-health-days-t159385

(4).https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/22/a-new-bill-allows-oregon-students-to-take-mental-health-days.html

(5) https://onlinedegrees.bradley.edu/blog/how-mental-health-affects-physical-health/

(6) https://ontario.cmha.ca/documents/connection-between-mental-and-physical-health/

(7)https://www.migrantclinician.org/files/staff/MCNFSU%20-%20%20Physical%20and%20Mental%20Health%20%28Converted%20PPT%20Slides%29.pdf

(8)http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2014-05-23-many-mental-illnesses-reduce-life-expectancy-more-heavy-smoking

(9) http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/issues/ranking-states-2018-0

(10) https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2019R1/Measures/Overview/HB2192

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About Author

Alecya Krivolenkov

Alecya is an Oregon native and Portland State alumni. She is a cannabis, food, and sex education enthusiast. If she’s not in the kitchen whipping up a new recipe, you can find her in the garden trying to grow something for next harvest or in front of the TV binging the latest and greatest. She aspires to write her own cookbook as well as open a multi-facility clinic for sexual trauma survivors. You can follow her cooking on instagram: @kushaipdx

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