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The Link Between Youth Mental Health and Social Exclusion

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, around one in five children in the United States suffers from a mental health problem. This is equivalent to over 17 million young people having disorders that affect their ability to express their emotions, learn and demonstrate positive behavior.

Early access to support

For a long time, the significant links between mental health problems and social exclusion has been well documented. But experts say that providing children and young people with the appropriate resources early in their education, can play a significant part in relieving some of the negative consequences that can occur in adulthood.  There is a risk that waiting too long, could result in students dropping out of school, exclusion or other serious problems later on.

But according to the Child Mind Institute’s Children’s Mental Health Report, most young people aren’t able to access any mental health resources or support at school. In fact, just 23% of pre-kindergartens have visits from mental health professionals.

Responsibility falls on teachers

The responsibility to address the needs of children with mental health challenges therefore, falls on teachers. This is another reason why experts argue that incorporating learning that focuses on mental health and well-being into everyday classroom activities, will benefit all students, not just those with the conditions. However, according to a study in 2011 by School Psychology Quarterly, only 34% of teachers feel that they have the appropriate skills and experience to meet the mental health needs of their students who have conditions like ADHD, anxiety, and behavioral problems.

Mental Health Matters

The inclusion of people with mental health problems within local communities, schools and at work is no longer the sole task of psychiatrists or psychologists. Everyone has a role to play from teachers, colleagues, neighbours, family and friends. The Mental Health Matters program is incorporated into sixth-grade English language-art classes and has been able to increase participants’ knowledge of mental health disorders, whilst helping to diminish associated social stigmas over mental health issues.

Repercussions of suspension and expulsion

Expulsion and suspension during a young person’s education, can significantly affect their chances later on in life. It has often been linked to unemployment and an increased chance of imprisonment.  The Child Mind Institute’s report outlines that students who are suspended, are twice as likely to then repeat a grade. They are also three times more likely to have problems with the law within a year.

But the good news is, when pre-schoolers receive adequate mental health support and have access to the right services, there is a 47% drop in expulsions. More investment needs to go into expanding these prevention focused strategies rather than simply focusing on punishing negative behavior.


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