Two extremely upsetting statistics came out not too long ago. Reports have found that not only is there a link between absenteeism in school and mental illness, but there is also a correlation between suspensions from schools and children who have mental or neurological health concerns. These include personality disorders, depression, ADHD, autism and spectrum disorders, and other mental health issues, both treated and untreated.
This is a major concern. Rather than recognizing symptoms and reaching out to provide support to the students who need it most, those children are being thrown out of the very environment that would provide them the most stability to manage their conditions. Not only that, but it is stigmatizing mental illness in our youth and taking away their chance for a solid education.
The Rise of Youth Mental Health Risks
Other factors are also at play. Many illnesses, such as depression, begin to present as young as 12 years old. Other conditions, such as ADHD, can have a marked impact on emotional health and can exhibit much younger. Those under the poverty line are especially at risk and face the highest number of consequences related to their mental health.
Part of this is likely due to lack of funding in poorer areas of the country. We see correlations with poverty and many public health crises, from mental to physical afflictions. For example, rates of obesity and diabetes are both more common in less wealthy portions of the US. Untreated mental health is another serious issue that has yet to be addressed in a meaningful way.
Taking Their Future
Looking at these facts makes the reports of suspension and absenteeism all the more heartbreaking. For myself, it also hit a nerve. My son is was adopted at the age of six. Right away we noticed some difficulties and by the age of eight he was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder.
Through the years he has struggled with other mental health issues, though through intervention and wonderful experiences with dedicated educators, administration and medical professionals he has grown into a well-adjusted young man well on his way to a bright future.
Not all children are so lucky. Without the help and attention my son received, I can only imagine what state he might be in today. The statistics show that such a fate is the reality of thousands of children every year that fall through the cracks and don’t get the assistance they so desperately require.
We are taking our children’s future from them, for nothing more than the crime of being born with struggles that are manageable.
Intervening as Parents
Many schools seem to be trying to fix this problem and are implementing specialized programs and one on one care for students who struggle with ADHD, behavior problems, and depression. School districts in my own state of Utah have been offering free counseling and classes to students and their families, an invaluable resource.
As parents, we can further this effort through our own actions in the home. We have to step up and work with them on school work. We need to find them tutors or online sites where they can catch up with concepts they struggle with. We need to offer emotional support and encourage them. We need to show interest in their hobbies and help them take part in them.
These are not guaranteed solutions to mental illness, of course. Doctors should be consulted, therapy should be sought and medication may be necessary in extreme situations. But health is holistic, incorporating more than just therapeutic methods into daily life. It is what we do from the time we wake up to when we sleep that has the biggest impact on our mental and emotional well-being.
- Prevalence. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://youth.gov/youth-topics/youth-mental-health/prevalance-mental-health-disorders-among-youth
- Jarosz, A. V. Suicide Replaces Homicide as Second-Leading Cause of Death Among U.S. Teenagers. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2016/suicide-replaces-homicide-second-leading-cause-death-among-us-teens.aspx
- Liahona Academy. The Reality of Teen Depression [Infographic]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.liahonaacademy.com/the-reality-of-teen-depression-infographic.html
- Murray, Sally. Poverty and Health. (n.d). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1405857/