Mental Health Disorders in Childhood and Adolescence

Recent studies show that half of all mental health conditions start around 14 years of age, but most of those cases are undetected and left untreated. To every parent, the mental health of their child should be of utmost importance as it plays a huge role in shaping their behaviors and views on life. While you have some control over what your child does while at home, what happens when the child is at school, outside the four walls of your security net?

Since our children spend more awake hours in school than they do at home, their teachers have increasing responsibility for impacting values and developing passion in the children. This is why all educators must take the mental health of their students very seriously, and parents must ensure this line of defense is not broken.  


What is Mental Health?

Mental health is essentially the state of our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, affecting how we think, feel, and act. It impacts how we actualize our abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively, and how well we can contribute to our community.

A person’s mental health at any point in time is determined by multiple social, psychological, and biological factors. For example, exposures to physical and mental violence and persistent socio-economic pressures are recognized risks to mental health.

Poor mental health can also be a result of rapid social change, stressful work or study conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill-health, and human rights violations. However on rare occasions, a person’s mental illness may be biological, which is often caused by one’s genetics.

7 Types of Mental Disorders

Globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents with suicide being the third leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10-19 years.

Some examples of mental health disorders include:

  1. Mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder)
  2. Anxiety disorders
  3. Personality disorders
  4. Psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia)
  5. Eating disorders
  6. Trauma-related disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder)
  7. Substance abuse disorders

The consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults. However, people with mild mental health problems can get better and many recover completely, while those with severe mental health conditions die prematurely as much as two decades early due to preventable physical conditions.

Early Warning Signs of Mental Illness in Children

Not sure if your child or anyone close is living with mental health problems? Observing any of the following feelings or behaviour can be an early warning sign of a problem:

  1. Eating or sleeping too much or too little.
  2. Pulling away from people and usual activities.
  3. Having low or no energy.
  4. Feeling numb or like nothing matters.
  5. Having unexplained aches and pains.
  6. Feeling helpless or hopeless.
  7. Smoking, drinking or using drugs more than usual.
  8. Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared.
  9. Yelling or fighting with family and friends.
  10. Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships.
  11. Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head.
  12. Hearing voices or believing things that are not true.
  13. Thinking of harming yourself or others.
  14. Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school.

Addressing Mental Health Awareness In Schools

The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that one in five people live with some sort of mental disorder or disease. Even though the average age of early signs of mental illness is 14, most individuals don’t seek help until adulthood. Underlining the seriousness is the fact that 60 percent of high school students with mental illness don’t graduate.

Mental health education should be made a mandatory aspect of all schools, with teachers and administrators working together to promote awareness with their students. Although you often can’t see it with your bare eyes, a mental health problem can cause serious damage to a person’s life and well-being.

Teachers and students should be provided with ways to recognize signs of developing mental health problems, and there should be opportunities around the awareness and management of mental health crises, including the risk of suicide or self-harm.

Other methods of creating awareness about mental health are:

  1. Closing the Gap: Schools can help the younger generations prepare for the world that awaits and all the obstacles they might run into. Students should be taught how to recognize the problem they’re experiencing, be open about it, seek help and assist other peers with similar or other mental health problems.

  2. Educating children about suicide & mental illness: Suicide is one of the leading causes of death ages 10-25, world-wide. Also, most of the people who have committed suicide, have suffered from a mental illness. To lower the increasing suicide rate and prevent young people from taking their own lives away, we need to raise awareness about mental health in our schools. This will leave a positive impact and students struggling will be able to learn about therapy and how to treat their problem, ready to talk about it and acknowledge that they have a problem.

  3. Early Interventions: Teachers, school counsellors, school psychologists, and peers need to learn about detecting the early signs of mental health issues, spotting the meaningful changes in behavior, and acting at the first sign of a potential mental health problem.

  4. Social Media Influence: Social media can have negative consequences and deep scars in the minds of the users, especially the younger generations. Unguarded experiences can lead to low self-image, depression, and anxiety. Students must learn self-love, values, loving everyone, not judging people, and talking about their insecurities openly.

  5. Eliminating the Cause: Students feel stressed out due to school pressure, peer pressure, bullying at school, overly strict teachers, too much workload, and pressure to score high grades. Understanding this will help the teacher create a warmer and relaxing atmosphere at school.

Schools need to urgently implement these measures and educate all their staff and students on mental health awareness. A perfect example of a secondary school that fully understands the importance of your child’s mental health is Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate (QE) in United Kingdom.

About Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate

Set in more than 220 acres of beautiful North Yorkshire countryside, Queen Ethelburga’s has provided students with a vibrant and supportive school community since 1912.  It welcomes girls and boys from 3 months and supports them to become resilient, confident, and independent young adults who are well prepared for their future.  

One distinct feature that sets Queen Ethelburga’s apart is its pastoral care unit. Offering support and guidance to all students and parents, teachers and staff work together to support individual student’s needs and equip them with the right skills to be successful in education and their chosen career. Queen Ethelburga’s is focused on developing its students’ skills and resilience, whilst nurturing their wellbeing. It has a dedicated team of trained staff on call 24 hours a day to offer support and guidance to all students within a specialist welfare area.

Queen Ethelburga’s dedicated THRIVE@QE programme offers all QE students a huge range of sessions, activities, workshops, and events to promote and support their positive mental health and wellbeing. The programme aims to help students to build resilience and the ability to overcome difficulties. The sessions are linked to and promote the five ways to wellbeing and include topics such as positivity, online safety, managing emotions, dealing with stress, cultural awareness, world news, dealing with worries, study skills, mindfulness, relaxation, yoga, and meditation. 

Choosing a school that is very actively conscious about your child’s physical, intellectual, and especially mental wellbeing will reap huge benefits in your learning performance and overall social and career development.

To learn more about Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate for your child, CLICK HERE to request a call back from one of our Education Advisors.

Share this article

Leave a Reply