Mental Health and High School Drop Out Rates: Is There a Connection?

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Mental health disorders are not limited to adults; they can also affect young children and adolescents. Mental health issues can seriously impact high school children’s performance at school.

Mental Health and Educational Performance

There is a direct correlation between adolescent mental illness and scholastic performance. Mental illness may cause some students to perform poorly or drop out of school. Those who drop out of high school are more likely to experience ongoing mental health disorders like depression.

Students who are struggling to maintain good grades may develop mental health issues like anxiety, low self-esteem and depression. When these illnesses develop, they are likely to interfere with a student’s ability to cope, and that can make educational performance even poorer. There is a downward spiral in which performance and mental health continue to decline.

In a report drawn from the European Union, researchers found that between 10 and 20 percent of adolescents had some form of mental disorder. The report also revealed that up to 50 percent of diagnosed mental disorders began during adolescence.1

Link to High School Drop Out Rate: Inconclusive

However, little research has been conducted to find out if the high school drop out rate is directly linked to mental health problems. A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists many factors that play a role in the decision to drop out.2 These include issues like low acceptance of authority, social and economic background and poor grades or test scores. The report makes no reference of mental illness.

Mental Health and Substance Use

High School Drop Out

The government’s youth.gov website reveals us that 20-25 percent of youth meet the criteria for a lifetime mental disorder.3 Mental health problems are often difficult to diagnose and can be masked by other issues. One of the most common co-occurring problems is a substance use disorder.

Students who are anxious or depressed may turn to legal or illegal substances to help them cope. They can become dependent on these substances. Addiction is itself a form of mental illness. This makes is hard for doctors who are not very familiar with substance use disorders to detect other underlying mental health disorders.

Getting Help

Parents should generally be on the lookout for signs that their children may have mental health issues. Some indications of potential problems are when a child becomes withdrawn, exhibits odd or disruptive behavior, starts using substances or begins to get lower grades at school.

If you suspect your child is experiencing a mental health issue, it is important to intervene. Healthcare professionals who specialize in addiction and substance use disorders can help young people. They are aware that substance use disorders are often associated with mental health problems and vice versa. Treatment can be tailored to deal with both problems.


References:

  1. http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_determinants/life_style/mental/docs/consensus_youth_en.pdf
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2007/oct/07_0063.htm#table3_down
  3. http://youth.gov/youth-topics/youth-mental-health/prevalance-mental-health-disorders-among-youth