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The Impact of Absenteeism on Student Mental Health

The Orah Team

November 20, 2023

Improving Student Mental Health

The Impact of Absenteeism on Student Mental Health

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue of student absenteeism has become a critical concern in K-12 education. Even prior to the pandemic, chronic absenteeism was a significant problem, with approximately 1 in 10 students in Los Angeles County and across the state being chronically absent. However, the pandemic has exacerbated this issue, with almost half of students now missing from classrooms on a regular basis. This trend is particularly prevalent among historically underserved students of color. The consequences of absenteeism go beyond academic performance; it also has a profound impact on student mental health. In this article, we will explore the relationship between absenteeism and student mental health, the challenges faced by schools in addressing this issue, and how recent policies and solutions can help improve student well-being.

The Link Between Absenteeism and Student Mental Health

To effectively address the issue of learning loss, it is crucial to recognize that students cannot learn if they are not present. The disruption caused by the pandemic has led students to develop bad habits and struggle with routines. This, in turn, has had a negative impact on their mental and emotional well-being. Students have reported experiencing difficulties in readjusting to in-person classes and unlearning the bad habits they developed during the pandemic. It is essential to acknowledge and address these challenges to support student mental health.

Student Absenteeism in Schools

The Impact of Absenteeism on School Climate

The consequences of absenteeism extend beyond individual students to the overall school climate. Loneliness, isolation, and a lack of connection have become significant public health concerns, as highlighted by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. Coupled with the inability to self-regulate, many students are acting out, leading to disciplinary actions such as removal from the classroom. It is crucial to shift our understanding of behavior through a trauma-informed lens that values relationships, patience, and well-being. By fostering empathy and understanding in our communications with students and families, we can create a more supportive and inclusive school climate.

Equity Issues in Absenteeism Patterns

Chronic absenteeism is not evenly distributed among students. Students of color, those from low-income families, those with disabilities, and those involved in the juvenile justice system are more likely to be chronically absent. The pandemic has further exacerbated these inequities. To create stronger communities and promote equity, it is essential to prioritize belonging and connection in schools. The Los Angeles County Office of Education's strategic plan emphasizes the need to address chronic absence rates and reduce disparities. Immediate intervention is required to prevent these inequities from worsening.

Addressing Absenteeism and Improving Student Well-Being

Recognizing the urgency of the issue, the Los Angeles County Office is taking proactive steps to address absenteeism and support student well-being. They have launched an attendance toolkit, providing personalized support to school districts and equipping them with training, tools, and resources to enhance student engagement and attendance. Additionally, they are fostering a regional learning network and collaborating with organizations serving homeless and foster care youth. The implementation of the Community Schools model and the partnership with Medi-Cal Managed Care Plans and the county's Department of Mental Health further demonstrate their commitment to improving student well-being.

The Role of School-Based Mental Health Services

School-based mental health services play a crucial role in addressing the mental health needs of students. These services not only improve access to care but also enable early identification and treatment of mental health issues. Furthermore, they have been linked to reduced absenteeism and better mental health outcomes. Most public schools offer mental health services, including individual counseling, case management, and referrals for external care. However, there is a need to expand these services to ensure that all students have access to the support they need.

Challenges Faced by Schools in Providing Mental Health Services

While many schools offer mental health services, there are several challenges that hinder their effective provision. Mental health provider shortages and inadequate funding are significant barriers. Insufficient staff coverage and a lack of access to providers are common issues faced by schools. Additionally, the lack of resources and difficulty in accessing providers for mental health screenings pose challenges in identifying students' needs. Inadequate funding, particularly in low-income schools, further exacerbates these challenges.

Recent Policies and Solutions

Recent policies, such as the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the American Rescue Plan Act, aim to support school-based mental health services. These policies provide funding and resources to expand mental health care in schools. The American Rescue Plan Act, in particular, allocates funds for school mental health services through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) program. Schools can utilize these funds to hire mental health professionals, provide training to staff, and partner with community-based mental health agencies.

The Link Between Absenteeism & Mental Health

The link between absenteeism and mental health is significant and multifaceted. Absenteeism, or frequent absence from school, is often both a symptom and a cause of mental health issues in students. When students experience mental health challenges, such as anxiety, depression, or stress, they are more likely to miss school. This absenteeism can lead to academic struggles, social isolation, and a worsening of their mental health condition due to a lack of engagement and support found in the school environment. Conversely, regular attendance can provide a sense of routine, social interaction, and access to mental health resources, which can be beneficial for student well-being. Thus, addressing absenteeism is crucial for supporting the mental health of students.

We know that absenteeism has significant implications for student mental health and overall school climate. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this issue, necessitating immediate intervention. School-based mental health services play a crucial role in addressing absenteeism and supporting student well-being. However, challenges such as mental health provider shortages and funding limitations need to be addressed. There is a silver lining, recent policies and solutions, such as the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the American Rescue Plan Act, provide pathways to expand mental health care in schools.

By implementing comprehensive solutions like Orah, schools can proactively address student mental health and improve overall well-being. It is crucial to prioritize student engagement, foster a supportive school climate, and ensure that every student has access to the mental health support they need.

Orah helps schools deliver a high standard of care

Orah: Supporting Student Well-Being Solutions for Schools

In the effort to address student well-being, Orah offers comprehensive solutions for schools. Their Nurture Notes tool allows educators to log notes about students and summarize them for quick report writing. This tool is available for free and enables educators to track student progress and identify areas of concern. Orah also offers 30-second mood checks for students, providing detailed reporting for schools to proactively address student mental health. By leveraging Orah's solutions, schools can enhance student engagement, improve attendance, and prioritize student well-being.

Orah's Free Solution for Managing Absences

Facing the challenge of absenteeism and its impact on student mental health? Orah offers a compassionate and effective approach for school. With tools like our free Orah (Pastoral) Notes tool, Student Mood Checks & Surveys and our free Absences Manager, Orah helps schools keep a caring eye on student well-being.

These solutions are designed to make it easier for educators to understand and support their students, especially in these trying times. If you're looking for a way to enhance student engagement and foster a healthier school environment, why not give Orah a try? Visit their site to learn more about how they can help your school community.

To learn more about Orah's student well-being solutions for schools, visit Orah for Student Care.

To learn more about Orah's attendance management solutions for schools, visit Orah for Attendance.


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The Orah Team

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