How school affects teens mental health?

In today’s fast-paced world, teenagers face numerous challenges as they navigate the ups and downs of adolescence. One significant aspect of a teenager’s life is their experience at school, which plays a pivotal role in their overall development.

While education is crucial, it’s essential to recognize the profound impact that school can have on teens’ mental health. In this article, we will delve into the ways in which school can affect the mental well-being of adolescents and provide valuable insights into understanding and addressing these challenges.

Access our mental health services for teens to discover the effects of school on adolescent mental health.

how school affects teens mental health

How school affects mental health in high school students: The 10 most common effects

  1. Anxiety Disorder: Students struggling with this disorder often find it challenging to focus in class, engage in social activities, and perform well in exams due to constant worry and physical symptoms associated with anxiety. This condition not only disrupts their academic progress but also impacts their overall well-being and stress levels.
  2. Depression: This mental health issue can lead to a lack of energy, disinterest in school activities, and a decline in academic performance. Students experiencing depressive states feel overwhelmed and struggle to manage their school tasks and responsibilities. It’s vital to recognize early signs of depression to provide timely support.
  3. Attention Deficit Disorder: Many children experience difficulties in maintaining focus in class, following instructions, and completing tasks. This affects their academic performance and relationships with peers and teachers. Early intervention and tailored learning strategies can significantly assist these students.
  4. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): Children with ASD often find it challenging to socialize, communicate, and adapt to changes in the school environment. They require additional support and adaptations to facilitate their learning in educational settings. Incorporating inclusive education practices can greatly benefit these students.
  5. Mood Disorders: Students with mood disorders may experience extreme mood swings, affecting their behavior and performance in school. They often struggle to maintain concentration and participate in school activities. Understanding and accommodating their unique needs is crucial in their educational journey.
  6. Eating Disorders like Anorexia or Bulimia: These disorders can impact students’ energy levels and concentration. They often lead to frequent absences due to associated health issues. Schools should promote healthy eating habits and provide resources for students struggling with these conditions.
  7. Trauma: Students who have experienced trauma may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), leading to flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety. This can interfere with their ability to engage in school activities and perform academically. Trauma-informed approaches in schools are essential to support these students.
  8. High Academic Expectations and Pressure: The stress and anxiety caused by high academic expectations and the pressure to succeed can lead to an increasing reluctance to attend or stay in classes. Balancing academic demands with students’ mental health needs is vital for a healthy learning environment.
  9. Family Issues: Problems within the family, such as divorce, domestic violence, abuse, or lack of support, also significantly impact the academic performance of children and adolescents. These issues can hinder their learning, delay their progress, and add to their existing challenges.
  10. Cyberbullying: The rise in cyberbullying, particularly due to its severity, along with school bullying and discrimination based on gender, race, body diversity, etc., significantly impacts children’s mental health and their ability to learn. Creating a safe and inclusive school environment is crucial to address and prevent these issues.

How does mental health affect school performance

Numerous studies have investigated the psychological problems associated with school mental health and bullying. In “Long-term effects of bullying victimization: School social context and adult mental health,” the long-term effects of bullying victimization on adults’ mental health were examined.

Children who have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused may face a variety of academic and emotional challenges that affect their ability to learn and thrive in school. Some effects of child maltreatment on academic performance include:

  1. Concentration and Memory Problems: Children who have experienced maltreatment may struggle with focusing in class and recalling important information due to the stress and anxiety resulting from trauma.
  2. Behavioral Issues: Maltreated children often display challenging or aggressive behaviors in school as a way of expressing their emotional distress. This can lead to disciplinary problems and affect the learning environment in the classroom.
  3. Low Self-Esteem and Negative Self-Concept: Maltreatment can negatively impact a child’s self-esteem and their perception of themselves as a student. This can lead to a lack of confidence in their academic abilities and poor performance.
  4. Social and Relational Problems: Children suffering from maltreatment may have difficulties in establishing and maintaining healthy social relationships with their peers, which can affect their participation in school activities and their sense of belonging.
  5. Mental Health Issues: Child maltreatment can contribute to the development of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These emotional issues can significantly interfere with academic performance and participation in academic and social activities.
  6. School Absenteeism: Maltreated children sometimes miss school due to physical and emotional health problems, resulting in inconsistent class attendance and, therefore, loss of educational opportunities.

Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive approach involving educators, mental health professionals, and supportive family and community members to provide a nurturing and safe environment for affected children.

How Does School Positively Impact Mental Health?

Children and adolescents spend a significant portion of their lives in school, a period crucial for learning and absorbing knowledge. During these years, one critical aspect impacted is their mental health, influenced by the surrounding school environment.

Study Published in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

A comprehensive study featured in the “Child and Adolescent Psychiatry” journal examines the influence of schools on the mental health of young adolescents. The research highlights how various aspects of school life can affect students’ mental health and overall well-being.

Methodology and Key Focus

The research involved observing 26,885 students, aged 11-14, from various schools across England over a two-year period. The study delved into how different school environments shape the mental development of these students.

Factors Analyzed

Researchers looked into a wide range of factors, including:

  • Socioeconomic structures (urbanity, area-level deprivation)
  • Community characteristics within schools (availability of free school meals, support for special educational needs or disabilities, ethnic background)
  • Operational characteristics of schools (size, student-teacher ratio, co-ed or single-sex, overall quality, provision for social and emotional learning, school climate)

Results and Findings

Using three validated self-report questionnaires, the study measured students’ mental health based on psychopathology, depression, and overall well-being. These included the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, and the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale.

The conclusion revealed that schools with a more positive climate had a lower incidence of depression and enhanced well-being among students. Conversely, urban living conditions, often associated with higher inequality and exposure to negative influences, were linked to a greater prevalence of health problems.

Conclusive Insights

The study indicated that while the influence of schools on mental health is small (ranging from 1-6%), it is significant. Understanding and addressing these influencing factors and mechanisms can be crucial in using schools as platforms for mental health care programs. Even a small percentage of influence can have a considerable impact, suggesting that interventions at the school level, aimed at altering negatively correlated factors, could globally benefit many young people’s mental health.


Understanding the relationship between school and mental health is crucial for parents, educators, and students. By recognizing the challenges and offering support, we can create a school environment that nurtures not just academic growth but also mental well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is school the main cause of depression?

While school can be a significant stressor, it’s one of many factors that can contribute to depression in teens.

What is the leading cause of depression in students?

Multiple factors, including academic pressure, social dynamics, personal issues, and biological factors, can contribute to depression.

What percentage of kids in school are depressed?

Studies suggest that depression rates among teens are rising, with varying percentages based on region and demographics.

Why do students struggle with mental health in school? 

The combination of academic pressures, social challenges, and personal issues can contribute to mental health struggles among students.