How School Affects Teens’ Mental Health


According to data collected by the NCS-A in the early 2000’s, about half of adolescents are mentally disabled–with 22% of those having severe impairments. 

Because school takes up so much of our time, it has to contribute to these high rates of mental illness.

Of the four students I interviewed, two of them agreed that there is a huge lack of motivation for them to do their school work. This is partly due to the fact that they aren’t interested in the subjects they have to participate in.

 When asked what about school decreases their motivation, an anonymous student answered, “Having to sit in these classes for so long, classes I don’t even like.” This student expressed that school led to them feeling unmotivated, and because of this, they were unable to do much after school–including their homework.

The school system hasn’t been created with all of its students in mind. “A pre-existing mental health disorder, it doesn’t make school easy,” said another anonymous student.

 School and all of its stressors can have a much larger impact on neurodivergent students and students with mental health disorders, who receive little to no aid in what can be a very unwelcoming environment.

Although some schools have accommodations for students with mental illness, they don’t seem to have them readily available. I personally know several students who struggle with mental health disorders, and they have all expressed disappointment in the way the school system deals with their disorders. School counselors are there to help students, but many people feel uncomfortable talking to them. For years, I was afraid to seek professional help for my own mental health, and that was because of an experience I had with a school counselor. 

Along with a lack of motivation, student’s circadian rhythms are fighting against them. Teenagers are biologically wired to stay up late and sleep in, but the usual schedule for high school leads to teens not getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep contributes to decreased focus and higher possibility of depression in teenagers.

We have a lot of responsibilities as students, and as we grow older those responsibilities are added onto work, chores, and extracurricular activities–all of that on top of the need to plan for our future. It’s incredibly difficult to balance all of this, oftentimes teens don’t take the breaks they need. Crowded schedules are overwhelming, and school doesn’t teach us how to properly sort them out, so students are stuck having to find out for themselves how to maintain a healthy work/life balance. It would be helpful to have teachers help us learn these things from a young age, that way, when we really need time management skills, we understand how to use them.

Some of this responsibility also falls on the parents, who have to teach their children time management if the schools do not. If they have the resources to help their children, then they absolutely need to. Students also need to be held accountable, and encouraged to not take on more than they should.

As many students will agree, school buildings in general aren’t very comfortable. Many schools have outdated equipment or are just bland. Being in a more welcoming environment would help a lot of students to feel safer and happier at school.

Despite all the challenges that school has on mental health, there are aspects that can improve it. “School has its positives and negatives,” said Jaden McBride, a sophomore at Leesville. “Seeing friends makes it positive.” 

School provides chances for teenagers to build meaningful friendships and explore new hobbies through clubs. These kinds of experiences are great for improving mental health.

For more information on this topic and similar topics:

Consequences of Student Mental Health Issues

Mental Health in Middle Level and High Schools

Effects of Mental Health on Student Learning


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