Rates of anxiety and depression are rising among kids – and for some teens, the stressors and pressures of daily academic life are making it worse. Is the solution a return to homeschooling? Or can parents help their teens find a balance between their academic responsibilities and their personal needs?
Sadly, there is no universal answer. But targeted and personalized coping strategies, a revised schedule, and a greater emphasis on student mental health at schools across the nation might help deal with the issue.
Are Kids Missing School Because of Depression and Anxiety?
Some of them are. Researchers note that school attendance problems due to an existing mental health issue have become a rising concern among educators, especially after the pandemic. While many kids cherish the return to school and the opportunity to be among their peers, some teens are struggling to readjust – while most teens agree that not enough is being done to help deal with rising teenage mental health concerns.
A growing number of states have enacted new laws to allow a certain number of absences for mental health reasons, the same as a physical sick day. Yet sometimes, taking a few days off just isn’t enough.
It’s Okay to Miss School Sometimes
Helping teens by allowing them to take a few days off if they’re feeling particularly anxious or need time to collect themselves because of the pressure they’re feeling is a good first step towards acknowledging that kids, too, can experience burnouts, especially if they have a diagnosed mental health condition.
But when a few days off turns into a regularly scheduled string of absences, it’s clear that more needs to be done. Teens who take a day off and return to school more stressed than before – due to mounting schoolwork, increased deadlines, or missed lessons – aren’t getting much out of their day off.
Unlike a few sick days, where students return with the expectation that they’ll need to catch up on the lesson plan, a mental health day would sometimes need to be accompanied with a more thorough consideration for how a teen could better cope with their academic responsibilities while dealing with their anxious or depressive symptoms, from both parents and educators.
How is Mental Health Tackled in Your Child’s School?
As more teens are struggling with feelings of depression or anxiety, schools need to respond by providing greater access to mental healthcare resources, as well as employing more mental health professionals (such as qualified counselors) to help teens who need an adult to listen to their problems. How well equipped is your teen’s school to deal with mounting mental health issues among the student body? Are there any systems in place for helping teens who have a string of absences get back into the curriculum or continue to learn from home? What about counseling and other resources?
When to Consider Inpatient Treatment
If your teen’s mental health issues are getting in the way of their academic future time and time again, you may want to consider an alternative arrangement – especially if their symptoms are getting worse, and you don’t know how to help them. Some teen mental health treatment facilities offer accredited day school programs to help clients keep up with their peers while in treatment.
Parents and educators ask us different questions about the phenomenon of mental health problems and school attendance issues, like:
Is it common for students to miss school because of depression and anxiety?
It has become more common, yes. More and more students are reportedly feeling unfocused and preoccupied with their mental health struggles while attending school. In a 2020 Harris poll, an overwhelming 78 percent of polled teens said they feel that schools need to prioritize making mental health days available to students who need extra time to take care of themselves.
Are there alternative options for students who are unable to attend traditional school?
Long-distance schooling programs have been around for decades, and studies show that some students benefit greatly from learning at home or via a smaller facility, or an alternative schedule. It is crucial to ensure that your teen’s social health does not suffer because of alternative schooling. Research shows that a more diverse set of friends and acquaintances can be positive for a teen’s development and mental health, as well.
Are there any legal protections in place for students who need to miss school?
Only seven states currently have new laws in place to allow excused absences for mental health reasons, but that list may be expanding over time. Keep an eye out for such laws in your state or find out if they have already been enacted.
Is online schooling a viable option for students struggling with depression and anxiety?
There are pros and cons to an online or virtual classroom. While working and learning from home can benefit some students who feel anxious about school, and allow them to keep up with other peers in the same age group, it’s important not to let a teen’s social health deteriorate from a lack of contact with their peers.
Learn more about helping your teen deal with academic pressures and challenges while treating their depression or anxiety via our mental health treatment for teens at Visions Teen Treatment.
Missing school can have an impact on a teen’s academic success, as well as their social and personal wellbeing. While taking days off to focus on mental health can be beneficial, a string of absences can only serve to further worsen a teen’s school anxieties and drive a rift between them and their future. It’s important to work with administrators and educators to create a safer, welcoming school environment, foster a better understanding for mental health issues, invest in local mental health resources, and focus on building your teen’s support network in and outside of school. Together, communities can work towards ensuring early interventions for their teens, recognizing signs of academic burnout and depression, and empowering students to overcome crucial obstacles.