Why Students Should Have Mental Health Days – The Strategic Story –

by Story

In the training workshop that I am teaching this week at Microsoft, I share my framework for strategic storytelling – the 12 questions that I use to create your strategy based on a story, first.

As homework between day 1 and day 2 of the training, I ask that participants find an example and take it through the 12 questions.

Kylie shared a great example, that I’d like to also share with you. Thank you, Kylie, great find!

Although it’s not from a CEO or a corporate executive (my typical kind of client), this example is certainly from a leader with a vision that matters now more than ever, and with a knack for bold action.

In her TEDx talk called “Why students should have mental health days”, Hailey Hardcastle tells us how she established a network of student activists in order to make schools a better place for those struggling with mental health challenges.

For me, this matters because my community has been impacted by mental health issues in the past few days, and I’d like to spread Hailey’s message.

The video is about 7 minutes. Below are the 12 questions and answers that highlight the strategy behind Hailey’s actions. See how the direction she is leading her network of activists towards is also the structure of her story.

1 – Who is the hero? All of us – mental health affects all of us – “Every single one of my peers had a story of a mental health crisis”.

2 – What does the hero want? We all want to see the number of suicides to go down. We all want to do something about mental health. That’s the basic desire here. What causes so many suicides is the stigma about mental health.

3 – Why does the topic matters now? The rate of teen suicide is increasing.

4 – Who is the villain? You might think it’s the school system that does not prioritize mental health, but I don’t think schools are the villain. The stigma of mental health is, in fact, the villain.

5 – What is the hurdle? Getting schools to enact changes to support mental health. That’s tough.

6 – What’s at stake? The life of teenagers.

7 – What success looks like? Fewer suicides. You have a day off and you feel better. Students learn young how to take care of themselves.

8 – What failure looks like? You don’t have a day off and you feel worse. There is no change in schools, increasing mental health issues and teen suicide rate.

9 – What is the path to success? Just like CPR, we need to have more people who know what to do when they see someone with mental health issues. “I’d love to see a world where each of us has a toolkit of skills to help a friend, coworker, family member or even a stranger going through a mental health crisis.

10 – What is the solution? Legal mental health days for all students. Hailey, the speaker, gives the description of how it works.

11 – What is the proof that it works? In June 2019 mental health days in Oregon were approved. It was a groundbreaking moment for Oregon students.

12- What is the call to action? “Look after each other, look after the teens, look after one another. Take a break.”

In this example, notice the other change that Hailey is describing, the shift from the belief that mental health is “not important”, to the belief that mental health is so important that you now have the right to take days off from school so you can take care of it. This is OLD vs. NEW. She is describing a transformation in our society, a point of no return, something that is irreversible.


This is one of the topics I cover in my training workshop called “The Bigger Story: Strategic Storytelling to Drive Profit and Engagement”. I am delivering it remotely for business leaders at Microsoft this month. You will hear me talk about this topic in my upcoming posts. If you’d like to know more about this workshop, let’s talk.


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