Written by Will Thurston Class of 2019
Mental disorders can affect many facets of an individual’s life, including their education outcomes. In recent years, high schools and colleges have worked to implement support for students’ mental health. These can be challenging times socially and intellectually, and in some cases students may be at risk of dropping out due to difficulty managing their mental health. A comprehensive literature review was conducted in 2014 to examine the effects of mental disorders on secondary education attainment (Esch et al., 2014).
51 psychology study records were used for this review. The reviewers separated disorders into two groups: internalizing and externalizing. Internalizing disorders refer to anxiety and mood disorders, where individuals associate their problems with the self rather than other causes. Externalizing disorders refer to disruptive conditions like conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and antisocial personality disorder, where problems are often conceptualized by the individual as being caused by others.
Internalizing disorders were generally associated with a higher than average risk of dropout. For mood disorders, major depression was most strongly related to dropout, and social phobia was the most related for anxiety disorders. Externalizing disorders, like conduct disorder, were associated with even higher dropout risk. The reviewers also examined the relationships between substance abuse and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder with dropout, and both were associated with higher dropout rates, with substance abuse being the most predictive factor of all. There were not many factors detected which could better explain these relationships, but some other influences like socioeconomic factors and academic performance were also related to higher dropout rates.
These findings are unsurprising, but they reinforce the fact that schools must provide mental health support for their students. Students, especially those who internalize their disorders, may go untreated for long periods of time. Schools should actively engage with students who may be suffering from mental disorders and are experiencing difficulties in completing their educational responsibilities in order to prevent dropouts.
Esch, P., Bocquet, V., Pull, C., Couffignal, S., Lehnert, T., Graas, M., Fond-Harmant, L., Ansseau, M. (2014). The downward spiral of mental disorders and educational attainment: a systematic review on early school leaving. BMC Psychiatry, 14, 237. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-014-0237-4
Image found: https://openclipart.org/detail/238204/sacdecourcol