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The link between mental health and school performance

By Diandra Thompson

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In honor of Children’s Mental Health Week (Feb. 5 – 11), United Way of Northeast Florida is bringing awareness to the challenges students of all ages may face. Mental health affects how we think about ourselves, the decisions we make and how we interact with others. It is essential to every individual’s overall well-being throughout their lifetime and especially for the development of children.

According to Arch Gen Psychiatry, over 50 percent of students ages 6-17 do not receive the proper mental health care needed for optimal psychological success. There are three primary factors that affect the development of mental health: a family history of mental illness, an individual’s genetic makeup and life experiences, such as trauma and abuse. A student need only possess one of these factors to develop a mental health illness.

Mental illnesses challenge students to be fully engaged in the classroom and make it difficult for them to meet academic standards. For instance, a student dealing with a mental-emotional illness may find it difficult to find the motivation to complete daily classwork, homework or class projects. According to the National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University, studies  show that these barriers can lead to low test scores, poor attendance, disruptive behavior and a greater chance of dropping out.

It’s important for parents, teachers and caregivers to recognize the possible signs of mental illness. Here are a few behaviors that should be monitored according to Everydayhealth.com:

  • Decrease in energy
  • Frequent confrontations with family and friends
  • Thoughts of harming themselves or others
  • Emotional imbalance
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities

United Way and partners understand the connection between non-academic barriers and success in school. Through our collaborative initiative Full Service Schools we connect nearly 8,000 students and families to a critical range of therapeutic, health and social services to promote the overall health and well-being of students, their family and household. Full service schools provide an array of services such as mentoring, after-school tutoring, and medical/health services. To learn more about Full Service Schools, visit unitedwaynefl.org/full-service-schools.

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United Way of Northeast Florida, a philanthropic organization, works to solve our community's toughest challenges by connecting people, resources and ideas. We envision a community of opportunity where everyone has hope and can reach their full potential.