Declining Grades Can be an Indicator of Teen Mental Illness


Many parents have a hard time distinguishing between the usual teenage blues and depression. Teens might display symptoms of sadness, isolation, and a sullen mood. But how can you tell if that’s teen depression?


Yet, one way that parents can identify mental illness is through a teen’s declining grades. Keep in mind, however, that worsening grades alone is not an indicator of depression. However, if you’re seeing symptoms of depression, along with lower grades plus your own hunch that something’s wrong, then there might be reason to bring your teen to a mental health provider. Nonetheless, there tends to be a clear relationship between adolescent depression and how well a teen does in school. In fact, lower grades might be the first noticeable sign of depression.


Some research suggests that adolescents who suffer from depression are less likely to graduate. And there are many reasons for this. The symptoms of depression can so easily affect the performance in school, as the following list makes clear:

  • Difficulty concentrating can lead to poor work completion and performance on exams and assignments.
  • Difficulty with planning, organizing, and executing tasks can lead to missing deadlines and not completing papers as assigned.
  • Hypersensitivity can lead to easily hurt feelings, crying, and anger at school, which can lead to unhealthy social interactions among teachers and peers, and even suspension and expulsion from school.
  • Inattention can lead to distractibility and restlessness.
  • Forgetfulness can lead to not turning in assignments on time.
  • Decreased self-esteem and low feelings of self-worth can result in frequent absence from school and truancy, feelings of rejection from peers, and isolation.
  • Depression can affect memory which becomes an obstacle when attempting to study for and pass exams.
  • Depressed teens will often refuse to complete tasks they feel are too difficult or overwhelming, particularly if it causes them to doubt their competence and confidence.
  • Depression often affects thinking clearly, effectively, and efficiently.

Furthermore, failing at an assignment only encourages a false self-perception of being dumb, incapable, or worthy of rejection. And depression already impairs a teen’s sense of self, which makes it a self-perpetuating cycle. In fact, a teen with a negative self-perception can lead to pessimism and suicidal thoughts, and possibly the loss of life. A frequent depressed mood can lead to substance abuse, addiction, sexual activity, and other risky and impulsive behavior.


Unfortunately, it’s easy for parents and other family members to miss signs of this mental illness in their teens. Yet, declining grades can be a factor in determining whether your teen may need mental health support. However, you may want to consult with teachers, school counselors, and the principal about what they’re seeing in your teen. They may have insight about the emotional experiences your teen is having at school. With information from the school, you can more accurately decide whether to have your teen assessed by a mental health provider. However, err on the side of caution. If you have any concerns at all, contact a mental health professional today.