Kids who frequently skip school could be in poor mental health

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A study suggests that students with mental and neurodevelopment disorders or who self-harm are more likely to miss school.

Washington: A study suggests that students with mental and neurodevelopment disorders or who self-harm are more likely to miss school. This pattern can make them vulnerable to anxiety and depression, family and peer problems such as bullying.

Experts say that such behavioural patterns are potential indicators of current or future poor mental health. If students frequently skip classes, it may result in social isolation and poorer academic performance. This could go on to exacerbate mental health and attendance issues.

A study led by Swansea University’s Professor Ann John, highlighted the importance of integrated school-based and healthcare strategies to support young people’s engagement with education.

Professor John said: “Children with poor mental health, who are neurodiverse or who self-harm often struggle at school.”

“Health and educational professionals, services and policymakers should be aware that children with poor attendance may be experiencing emotional ill health, whether this is diagnosed in school or early adulthood.”

“Absences and exclusions may provide a useful tool to identify those who require additional support. Early intervention will not only reduce immediate distress and difficulties for the young person but also may also interrupt poor life trajectories and improve outcomes in later life.”

The new study examines the association between attendance (absences and exclusions) and neurodiversity, mental health and self-harm pupils aged from seven to 16 between 2009 and 2013.

Published in The Lancet Psychiatry, their paper highlights that children and young people with a neurodevelopmental disorder, mental disorder, or who self-harm diagnosed and recorded before the age of 24 are much more likely to miss school than their peers.

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School absenteeism and exclusion rates were higher after the age of 11 in all children but disproportionally more so in those with a recorded disorder.

The study also identified important differences among genders: “Within the diagnosed populations, girls with neurodevelopmental disorders, depression and substance misuse were more likely to be absent, and boys were more likely to be excluded.

Professor John added, “This aligns with a view that boys express their mental distress through their behaviour which in turn impacts the school environment resulting in their exclusion, whereas girls, especially with emotional disorders or delayed diagnosis of neurodevelopmental disorders, tend to be more anxious and withdraw from social contact.”

However, the team said having special educational needs (SEN) status reduced the likelihood of a pupil being absent or excluded, potentially highlighting the positive impact of recognition, diagnosis and educational interventions.

first published:Nov. 26, 2021, 2:11 a.m.

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