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School Culture Partly to Blame for Growing Mental Health Issues

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Children, like adults, may experience various mental health issues. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Anxiety Disorders – These children may suffer from PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and social phobia.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – Kids with ADHD may either have difficulty paying attention, may show impulsive behaviour or may be hyperactive all the time.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – This is a developmental disorder that will begin to show signs in early childhood. A child with ASD often has difficulty interacting and communicating.
  • Mood Disorders – These include bipolar disorder and depression – conditions that may trigger a child to experience extreme mood swings or persistent sadness.

Psychologists in Montreal have observed that more young people are suffering from mental illness today than ever. There’s a mental health epidemic affecting young individuals, and this problem has become one of the biggest challenges facing our educational institutions.

Data from Young Minds show that between 2001 and 2011, there has been a 68% increase in the number of inpatient admissions for young patients who harmed themselves. Another survey found that close to half of girls between 11 and 21 (46%) said they need help dealing with mental health problems.

We have to ask ourselves, what’s making this generation so vulnerable to depression and self-doubt? Why are a lot of kids struggling to cope even when they are benefiting from a much better lifestyle compared to children 3 decades ago?

Right now, there’s an upsurge of mental illness among children and we need to start looking for better and more effective ways to address the causes.

Schools, whether they admit it or not, have been using anxiety in some way to drive performance in students. They use anxiety and instil a fear of failure in order to push kids to do better in academics.

Although many schools have tried to change this culture, the reality is that most are simply scratching at the surface. Programs aimed at boosting self-esteem and resilience, as well as introducing lessons about well-being and happiness, are becoming more prevalent in schools today. But these may still not be enough.

Although we may be unable to completely understand the reasons that have contributed to the lack of confidence and vulnerability of our children, I think it’s fair to say that making IQ a priority over EQ is one of the reasons for the situation we are facing today.

More resources are being used to address this growing problem however; there are still a few institutions that care more about the academic performance of their students than anything else. A case in point is the boom in tutoring. Tutoring is deemed as a completely understandable response by parents to help their kids cope with the rigorous testing and entrance exams. But then again, it may very well be a symptom of a failing system.

School cultures need a radical change. The increasing rate of mental health issues in children lie largely with schools and we need to wake up and start addressing the causes, not the symptoms.

But, you may wonder, what can we do exactly?

First off, schools need to understand that fear of failure and anxiety can and will trigger mental health issues. There’s nothing wrong with instilling competition and hard work among students, but these characteristics must be imparted without making the kids fearful and anxious about their own academic performance.

Next, students need to be taught how to cope with challenges both online and offline. They need to be given better support from the schools, especially in dealing with issues on Internet platforms like social media. Over-monitoring should be discouraged, however, and instead focus more on providing guidance.