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Survey: Parental Perspectives on Mental Health-Related Absenteeism
By Debbie Lopez Updated on May 23, 2024
Rick Lopez, M.Ed. Rick Lopez, M.Ed.

Survey: Parental Perspectives on Mental Health-Related Absenteeism

We recently conducted a survey of 3,000 parents to gauge parental support for absenteeism when it directly benefits a child’s mental health. Though there are some geographical variations in the results, it is clear that the vast majority of parents are in support of their kids taking a mental health day off from school if they would directly benefit from it. The full results are illustrated in the interactive map below:

Key Findings:

  • Parental Support for Mental Health Days: A significant 73% of parents support allowing children to take mental health days off from school, with Minnesota showing the highest support at 86%, and Vermont the lowest at 40%.
  • Barriers to Mental Health Days: Key obstacles include unsupportive school policies (47%), social stigma around mental health (27%), and concerns about falling behind academically (26%).
  • Justifiable Reasons for Mental Health Days: Symptoms of mental health disorders such as anxiety or stress (52%), family issues or personal problems (24%), grieving the loss of a loved one (15%), and feeling overwhelmed by schoolwork (8%) are considered valid reasons by parents.
  • Decision-Making Authority: The majority of parents (66%) believe they should decide if their child can take a mental health day, while 17% think it should be up to the child’s physician or therapist, and only 3% believe the school should decide.
  • Support for Students Taking Mental Health Days: Parents advocate for various support measures including catch-up sessions (33%), regular check-ins from school counselors (30%), flexible deadlines for assignments (25%), and advance provision of assignments (12%).
  • Desired Changes in School Policies: Parents want better training for teachers on mental health awareness (39%), integration of mental health education into the curriculum (23%), more proactive communication between schools and parents (21%), and an increase in on-site mental health professionals (17%).

Implications of the Study:

  • Shift in Parental Perspectives: The strong parental support for mental health days reflects a broader societal shift towards recognizing the importance of mental health. This change challenges traditional school policies that prioritize attendance over mental well-being.
  • Need for Policy Reform: With nearly half of the parents identifying unsupportive school policies as a barrier, there is a clear need for educational institutions to reform their attendance policies to accommodate mental health needs.
  • Combating Social Stigma: The survey highlights the ongoing stigma around mental health, with 27% of parents citing it as a barrier. Efforts to normalize mental health issues through education and policy changes are crucial.
  • Academic Concerns: The fear of falling behind academically, noted by 26% of parents, underscores the need for schools to provide robust academic support systems for students who take mental health days.
  • Comprehensive School Support: The varied suggestions for supporting students taking mental health days illustrate the need for a multifaceted approach, including academic, emotional, and practical support from schools.
  • Educational Reforms: The demand for better teacher training, curriculum integration of mental health education, and improved communication between schools and parents points to a comprehensive reform agenda aimed at enhancing the mental health support framework within schools.


Online panel survey of 3,000 adults based on age, gender, and geography. Internal data sources are used to obtain population data sets. We used a two-step process to ensure representativeness through stratified sampling and post-stratification weighting.

Respondents are carefully chosen from a geographically representative online panel of double opt-in members. This selection is further tailored to meet the precise criteria required for each unique survey. Throughout the survey, we design questions to carefully screen and authenticate respondents, guaranteeing the alignment of the survey with the ideal participants.

To ensure the integrity of our data collection, we employ an array of data quality methods. Alongside conventional measures like digital fingerprinting, bot checks, geo-verification, and speeding detection, etc. each response undergoes a thorough review by a dedicated team member to ensure quality and contextual accuracy. Our commitment extends to open-ended responses, subjecting them to scrutiny for gibberish answers and plagiarism detection.