Mental Health Related Absences
Mental Health Absences Guidance
Watch the Mental Health Absences Guidance webinar to hear an overview about mental health excused absences, as well as a discussion on what implementation may look like.
ESSER Attendance and Reengagement
OSPI supports attendance & reengagement through the ESSER Attendance & Reengagement Project. Find out more by reading the Attendance and Reengagement Project Explainer.
The Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) and other youth advocates worked with state representatives to introduce and pass House Bill (HB) 1834: Mental Health Related Absences, during the 2022 Legislative Session.
HB 1834 directs OSPI to categorize a student's absence from school due to a mental health reason as an excused absence due to illness, health condition, or medical appointment; and to develop the rule and guidance to implement the rule in consultation with a student advisory group and the Graduation A Team Effort (GATE) Advisory Committee.
The rule went into effect on August 1, in time for the 2022-23 school year!
Policy & Guidance
- Mental Health Related Absences: Guidance to Support Implementation of House Bill 1834 - Comprehensive Guidance (August 22, 2022)
- Mental Health Absences (HB 1834) Explainer-Read the overview of new bill requirements and answers to frequently asked questions.
- Chapter 392-401 WAC-Statewide Definition of Absence, Excused and Unexcused.
- OSPI Webinar on Mental Health Related Absence Guidance (August 23, 2022).
There are various guides, toolkits, and resources to support school and district systems to address mental health issues and the absences that may occur because of them. We have selected a few key areas of focus to guide school districts in their work.
- Tools for Addressing Anxiety and School Refusal
Seattle Children's Hospital developed the Fast Approach Skills Training (FAST) resources for brief, evidence-based behavioral approaches for youth and families with common mental health concerns. These tools are specifically created for use in schools and other non-long-term-treatment settings.
You'll find: FAST-A for Anxiety, FAST-B for Behavior, FAST-D for Depression, FAST-P for Parenting Teens, FAST-T for Trauma, FAST-S for Safety.
Family Handout on Anxiety: Attendance Works created a handout for educators to share with families that offers brief information on the signs of anxiety and what families can do to support their child.
- Addressing Mental Health Stigma
This toolkit provides social media assets and posters to share positive messaging and supportive resources.
Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach how to help an adolescent who is experiencing a mental health or addiction challenge or is in crisis. Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders. Some ESDs offer YMHFA training. Reach out to your region’s prevention center director for more information.
The Student/Youth Mental Health Literacy Library gives any teacher, school counselor or other staff member a comprehensive resource of professionally vetted curricula and school presentations to easily and quickly compare available programs at their fingertips
- Establish a System for Proactively and Supportively Responding to Absences
The following are two toolkits that guide schools and districts to include and address attendance in their multi-tiered system of support.
This toolkit walks building leaders through cultivating a school-wide culture of attendance, using chronic absence data to determine need for additional support, developing staff capacity to adopt effective attendance practice and advocate for resources and policies to improve attendance.
This toolkit walks schools through establishing or enhancing a teaming approach to attendance, reviewing data to understand strengths and challenges, developing tiered engagement strategies, and assessing what works.
- Build or Strengthen School Mental Health Systems within a MTSS
This resource helps states, districts, and schools understand the core components of comprehensive school mental health and engage in a planning process around implementation of services.
Supporting Child and Student Social Emotional Behavioral Health (US Department of Education)
This resource highlights seven key challenges to providing school- or program-based mental health support across early childhood, K–12 schools, and higher education settings, and presents seven corresponding recommendations. The appendix provides additional useful information, including (a) numerous examples corresponding to the recommendations highlighting implementation efforts throughout the country; (b) a list of federal resource centers; (c) a list of resources to assist educators (teachers, providers, and administrators) in implementing the recommendations; and (d) guidance on existing programs that can support social, emotional and mental health services for students.
The SHAPE Assessment helps schools and districts improve their school mental health systems
- SHAPE users map their school mental health services and supports
- Assess system quality using national performance standards
- Receive custom reports and strategic planning guidance and resources
- Utilize additional SHAPE features including the Screening and Assessment Library and Trauma-Responsive Schools Assessment and Resources
Co-developed by the Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC) Network Coordinating Office and the National Center for School Mental Health (NCSMH) to help states, districts, and schools across the United States understand the core components of comprehensive school mental health and engage in a planning process around implementation of services, these implementation guidance modules focus on the following core features of effective school mental health initiatives.
Call, text, or chat 988 to be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL). It will be confidential, free, and available 24/7/365
(transgender, military, disabled)
- Educator Wellness Resources
In 2021, the Washington State Legislature passed SHB1363: Addressing Secondary Traumatic Stress in the K-12 Workforce. SHB1363 directs districts to adopt a policy and procedures to take meaningful steps in supporting staff’s health and well-being.
To help districts implement WSSDA policy and procedure 5515, OSPI and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation partnered to provide these free resources and an online assessment.
SmartHealth is Washington State's voluntary wellness program that supports you on your journey toward living well. It is included in your SEBB benefits at no cost to you.
Ensuring the well-being of educators is a critical component to sustaining an effective workforce and promoting student outcomes. By implementing policy through strategic use of professional learning and a continuous improvement process, districts and schools can reduce staff turnover, increase student outcomes, and model healthy behaviors for the entire school community.
Thriving Schools takes a comprehensive approach to school health, curating the best thinking and guidance on how to keep students, staff, teachers, and families healthy across these dimensions of health.
- Related OSPI Programs
Find resources, guidance, and attendance awareness materials to support embedding attendance into a multi-tiered system of support.
Find resources and support to help in the development of Suicide Prevention Plans.
Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a framework for enhancing the adoption and implementation of a continuum of evidence-based practices to achieve important outcomes for every student.
Broadly understood as a process through which individuals build awareness and skills in managing emotions, setting goals, establishing relationships, and making responsible decisions that support success in school and in life. When we think of educating the whole child, their social and emotional development must be considered as a part of overall instruction.
The Student Assistance Prevention-Intervention Services Program (SAPISP) is a comprehensive, integrated model of services that fosters safe school environments, promotes healthy childhood development and prevents alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse.
Behavioral Health is the promotion of mental health, resilience, and wellbeing; the treatment of mental and substance use disorders; and the support of those who experience and/or are in recovery from these conditions, along with their families and communities (US Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration).
Project AWARE is a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) spread over five years to both build and grow mental health services and behavioral health education within the awarded districts. OSPI’s Project AWARE is now in its second cycle. It is the vision of OSPI that all young learners can be successful. Mental health services and educators, staff, mental health professionals, and community members who have behavioral health training are integral to this success.
- Youth-led Resources
There can be added layers of challenge for youth who identify as people of color, from cultural taboos around discussing mental health to a lack of therapists and physicians of color who specialize in treating young people. This guide is designed to outline the steps teens and young adults can take to find a provider that suits their needs.