Mental Health In Schools

Do you realise how mental health can impact the well-being and performance of your school pupils?

School is where people spend most of their young life and what they learn there is of utmost importance. Are we teaching our children that mental health matters or that they should ignore it and just make sure they succeed in their curricula without taking care of their mental health?

How could our schools better support students who struggle with their mental health?

There are mental health issues that affect mostly children in their function and school performance and some of them are listed below;

1. Abuse

This is the number one cause of mental illness that most children suffer from, whether at home or in schools. Abuse, whether emotional or physical, affects the psychological function of human beings and children are no exception to the rule. A child cannot perform well in school or concentrate if they are being abused and without proper knowledge, teachers may never realise that a child is suffering from abuse as most children try to conceal it.

2. Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

This is characterized by a persistent pattern of hyperactivity-impulsivity and/or inattention that interferes with functioning and presents itself in two or more settings such as at home, work, school, and social situations. The DSM-5 specifies that several of the symptoms must have been present prior to the age of 12 and that these symptoms have a negative impact on social, occupational, or academic functioning.

3. Anxiety Disorders

Most people feel a little nervous before a big speech, a job interview, or a visit to the doctor. But in anxiety disorders, those feelings are crippling, extreme, and/or persistent.

4. Bullying

Bullying is a great issue impacting children. It’s not to be taken lightly as it affects the well-being of a child and their psychological being.

5. Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious illnesses that can be life-threatening and are often difficult to treat. Eating disorders are characterized by obsessive concerns with weight and disruptive eating patterns that negatively impact physical and mental health. Types of eating disorders include:

·        Anorexia Nervosa

It is characterized by restricted food consumption that leads to weight loss and very low body weight. Those who experience this disorder also have a preoccupation and fear of gaining weight as well as a distorted view of their own appearance and behaviour.

·        Bulimia Nervosa

It involves binging and then taking extreme steps to compensate for these binges. These compensatory behaviours might include self-induced vomiting, the abuse of laxatives or diuretics, and excessive exercise.

·        Rumination Disorder

It is marked by regurgitating previously chewed or swallowed food in order to either spit it out or re-swallow it. Most of those affected by this disorder are children who also have a developmental delay or intellectual disability. Additional problems that can result from this behaviour include dental decay, oesophageal ulcers, and malnutrition.

·        Pica

Pica involves craving and consuming non-food substances such as dirt, paint, or soap. The disorder most commonly affects children with developmental disabilities.

·        Binge-Eating Disorder

It involves episodes of binge eating where the individual consumes an unusually large amount of over the course of a couple hours. Not only do people overeat, however, they also feel as if they have no control over their eating. Binge eating episodes are sometimes triggered by certain emotions such as feeling happy or anxious, by boredom or following stressful events.

6. Intellectual disability

Whilst every child is expected to do well in school, some children suffer from this intellectual developmental disorder and it limits both their intellectual and social functioning and behaviours. It affects their speech, language, and sometimes their motor skills.

7. Communication disorders

These disorders are those that impact the ability to use, understand, or detect language and speech. The DSM-5 identifies four different sub-types of communication disorders: language disorder, speech sound disorder, childhood-onset fluency disorder (stuttering), and social (pragmatic) communication disorder.

Therefore, whilst we expect every child to be able to function like others, we should not turn a blind eye to some of these mental health problems that children may be suffering from. It doesn’t need to be something as serious as Autism Spectrum Disorder which causes significant impairment for us to acknowledge that a child may be suffering.

8. Separation Anxiety Disorder 

This condition is a type of anxiety disorder involving an excessive amount of fear or anxiety related to being separated from attachment figures. In children, it relates to young children’s fear of being apart from their parents or caregivers. A child suffering these symptoms may avoid moving away from home, going to school, or playing with others in order to remain in close proximity to the attachment figure.

9. Reactive Attachment Disorder

This can result when children do not form normal healthy relationships and attachments with adult caregivers during the first few years of childhood. Symptoms of the disorder include being withdrawn from adult caregivers and social and emotional disturbances that result from patterns of insufficient care and neglect.

10. Disruptive Disorders

Impulse-control disorders are those that involve an inability to control emotions and behaviours, resulting in harm to oneself or others. These problems with emotional and behavioural regulation are characterized by actions that violate the rights of others such as destroying property or physical aggression and/or those that conflict with societal norms, authority figures, and laws. Types of impulse-control disorders include:

·        Kleptomania

It involves an inability to control the impulse to steal. Children who have kleptomania will often steal things that they do not really need or that have no real monetary value. Those with this condition experience escalating tension prior to committing theft and feel relief and gratification afterwards.

·        Pyromania

Pyromania involves a fascination with fire that results in acts of fire-starting that endanger the self and others. Children who struggle with pyromania purposefully and deliberately have set fires more than one time. They also experience tension and emotional arousal before setting a fire.

·        Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Intermittent explosive disorder is characterized by brief outbursts of anger and violence that are out of proportion for the situation. Children with this disorder may erupt into angry outbursts or violent actions in response to everyday annoyances or disappointments.

·        Conduct Disorder

This is a condition diagnosed in children and adolescents under the age of 18 who regularly violate social norms and the rights of others. Children with this disorder display aggression toward people and animals, destroy property, steal and deceive, and violate other rules and laws. These behaviours result in significant problems in a child’s academic, work, or social functioning.

·        Oppositional Defiant Disorder

This begins prior to the age of 18 and is characterized by defiance, irritability, anger, aggression, and vindictiveness. While all kids behave defiantly sometimes, kids with oppositional defiant disorder refuse to comply with adult requests almost all the time and engage in behaviours to deliberately annoy others.

In conclusion

Psychological disorders can cause disruptions in daily functioning, relationships, school, and other important domains. Schools should therefore ensure the psychological well-being of their children. Nowadays in most colleges and universities, there are counsellors but in the Foundation and Intermediate phases, it seems like people are not aware that children still suffer from mental illnesses that they need help with.

Get in touch with us for your school’s mental wellness talks and school counselling services to raise a mentally healthy generation.

If you need to speak to a professional counsellor, don’t forget to get in touch with Psyche and Beyond.



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