Students missing out on education because of mental illness

While many children and young people are heading back to school, college or university for the new term, figures released today[i] (Monday 1 September) show that, three quarters of young people (77%) with mental health problems have missed out on education.

The survey, by mental health anti-stigma programme Time to Change, also shows that for one in four students (24%) the reason they did not go into school, college or university was because they were worried what other people would say and 15% of people experienced bullying as a result of mental health problems.

Over 3,000 people who experienced mental health problems while in education were questioned as part of the survey and nearly a third of those (31%) were on the receiving end of derogatory language with respondents citing, “crazy” “mental” and “attention seeking” as some of the most common terms used. Unsurprisingly, half of those questioned (48%) chose not to tell anyone at school or college about their mental health problems with many people citing physical health conditions as the reason for being absent.

Time to Change, which is run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, found that pupils are missing weeks and months at a time but worryingly for more than one in ten people (12%) mental health problems put a stop to education all together.

Jenny Taylor, Head of the Children and Young People’s Programme at Time to Change said, “A young person would go into a classroom and tell their friends and teachers if they had broken their leg, but when it comes to mental health problems, they’re silenced by the stigma and worried they may be bullied as a result of talking about their mental health problems.

“Yet one in ten young people will experience a mental health problem, that’s around three in every classroom, so we need to change this culture and make it more acceptable to talk openly about mental health problems before students miss out on their education.”

The survey also revealed that missing education as a result of mental health problems went on to impact people later in life in the following ways:

  • 80% of people lost their confidence
  • 54% said it had an impact on their education
  • 26% of people said it had an impact on job prospects

Norman Lamb, Minister of State for Care and Support said, "I want to build a fairer society. This means better mental health care for children and young people without the barrier of stigma. It is heart breaking that youngsters fear they will face discrimination from their peers and I’m pleased that Time to Change is working with schools to address this.

“We’re already working with the Department for Education to help teachers and others in contact with children to spot the signs of mental health problems, and I’ve recently launched a Taskforce to look at how we can make sure every child with mental health problems gets the support they need.”

Time to Change is encouraging every secondary school in England to sign up to four weeks of activity this November which involves brief, simple sessions in assembly or form time to start the conversation about mental health. There is no payment or fundraising involved, the resources are provided for free.

There are also resources available for parents and young people to help them start the conversation about mental health.

[i] Time to Change surveyed 3,051 people between 23/07/14-20/08/14 via Survey Monkey. All respondents have experienced a mental health problem and were asked to reflect on their experiences while in education, up to and including university. 1,961 respondents experienced problems at primary or secondary school and 1,503 respondents are still under the age of 24

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