This blog post was written for Say It With Your Chest by Candice Williams who is a mental health blogger.
As some of you may know, May is mental health awareness month. With exclusions currently being a key topic of discussion it is a crucial time to understand a) if there is a relationship between poor mental health and exclusions and b) what the relationship is.
Mental health includes our physical, psychological, social and emotional well-being which impacts how we think, feel and act. The cause of mental health disorders can be caused by various factors such as, brain chemistry, childhood trauma and long term stress.
What is the problem?
With the exclusion of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, children with special educational needs and children from the black and minority ethnic community on the rise, I was curious to see what role mental health played in the lives of those excluded. According to an article published by the Guardian in August 2017, “school exclusion is linked to long term mental health problems.”¹
A study conducted by the university of Exeter² found an association between psychological distress and exclusion: children with psychological distress and mental health problems were more likely to be excluded and their exclusion acted as a predictor of increased psychological distress three years later. Professor Tamsin Ford, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Exeter’s Medical School, warned that excluded children can develop a range of mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety as well as behavioural disturbance.²
So, what next?
I believe schools need to understand how important it is to look at whether a mental health problem may be causing behaviours to be displayed which could contribute to the student being excluded. Ford sums this idea up very nicely by saying “by avoiding exclusion and finding other solutions to poor behaviour, schools can help children’s mental health in the future as well as their education.”
As stated in a document called Mental health and behaviour in schools³ provided by the Department for Education, schools could implement prevention strategies aimed to promote the well-being of their pupils. All students should have adequate access to specialist support in the event of their well-being impacting their school life. Teachers should receive adequate training to ensure that they are able to cater to students who may be affected by poor mental health. In turn, students should be provided with a comforting space where they are able to discuss their thoughts and feelings freely. It is essential that we provide all students with substantial support throughout their school experience to enhance their education as best as possible.
To summarise, although being excluded from school in some cases is only for a couple of days the impact and repercussions for the child and parents are much wider.² Therefore, offering support to young people who display challenging behavior could help prevent fixed period and permanent exclusions as well as future psychopathology.²