Teen Academic Life and Mental Illness

Research shows a significant relationship between school performance and mental illness, such a Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder.  This means that if a teen is experiencing a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, or panic attacks, often the first sign is a drop in grades.


It’s true that some adolescents simply don’t see the value of their academic experience. However, in this case, it’s likely that you’ve seen a struggle for high grades throughout their academic career. Whereas for those who begin to experience a mental illness, they might have been able to manage their academics until then.


At the same time, there are a wide variety of feelings to school and grades among teens. For instance, some teens see their educational experience as high on their list of priorities, especially if doing so will keep them on the football or swim team, Others might be artistic and creative and see the school environment as inhibiting their creativity. Other students might not be creative at all, but simply don’t care about the academic life.


Whether or not a creative mind is the cause for poor grades, and especially if you’re seeing signs of depression or anxiety, it might be worthwhile to explore whether a mental illness is playing a role in your teen’s academic life. Although your child might be claiming certain reasons for a drop in grades: “I don’t care about school,” or “getting good grades isn’t going to help me,” it would be important to gather more information.


For instance, become more involved in your child’s academic life. Have conversations with teachers, teacher’s aides, the school counselor, and even the principal, if you’re not already. There might be information that points to behavioral or emotional concerns. You might discover symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or even the simple fact that your child needs glasses. Of course, if mental health, emotional, or behavioral concerns exist, seek out the suitable professional support to appropriately address the problem.


Given the amount of pressure at this age, another means of support is providing your child with tools to minimize the stress of getting good grades. Talk about time management. Set up systems in the house that facilitate study time, completing homework, and following through on larger class projects. Encourage the use of planners, binders, and other tools to stay well organized. If necessary, stay in communication with your child about what is due for which classes by when. You might create a specific period of time in which the two of you, perhaps along with other siblings, do work together. Of course, some teens might resist this experience. Typical for the adolescent stage of life is pulling away from the family, especially parents. Nonetheless, setting up a time after school to do homework, even if your teen does this alone in his or her room, at least sets up a structure for meeting school responsibilities. You might then check with your teen at the end of that specified time to see if he or she used that time wisely.


Lastly, help your teen get the right amount of sleep at night. Healthy sleeping and eating patterns can facilitate a healthy mind. Along with this, taking good care of the body with exercise, yoga, and long walks on the weekends can also help with better brain functioning. Of course, having fun at the movies, spending time at the beach, and hanging out with friends is a necessary part of staying psychologically and emotionally healthy, and this in turn facilitates a fit academic life.