Young people with mental health problems are absent from school more, are performing more poorly, and like school less compared to their peers who do not have mental health issues.
One Australian child in 7 had a mental health problem in the past 12 months. In our school of over 1100 students that’s more than 150 young people on average each year.
While that rate has stayed constant since the first national survey in 1998, the good news is that the use of health and education services for support has increased substantially.
The national survey separately asked parents/carers and young people about four disorder groupings: depression, anxiety, ADHD, and ‘bad behaviour’ (such as being oppositional or engaging in antisocial behaviour)
Of the four types of disorder, major depressive disorder had the greatest impact on school attendance. Secondary students with this disorder averaged 23 days absent from school in the previous 12 months due to its symptoms, while those with anxiety disorders missed 20 days.
Major depressive disorder also had the greatest impact on functioning at school, with one third of these students experiencing a severe impact, and another third with a moderate impact.
School performance in all subjects was markedly poorer for those with a mental disorder, as rated by parents/carers. In Maths 37% of students with mental disorders were rated below average compared with 11% of those with no disorder. In English 39% of students with mental disorders were rated below average compared with 11% of those with no disorder. In Science 34% of students with mental disorders were rated below average compared with 9% of those with no disorder.
The survey also gathered data from parents and carers concerning how much their children liked school. A higher proportion of children and adolescents with a mental disorder than those without a mental disorder somewhat disliked or very much disliked school (22% compared with 5%)
Schools play a key role in helping young people lead meaningful lives, and schools are there to help out when problems with mental health come up. Next time we’ll discuss how our school helps students with these problems.
On this website there is advice on sources of information and support (Current families > Counselling).
Martin GrahamSchool Counsellor