How can a teen’s school experience affect their mental health?


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Every young teenager will eventually experience going to high school. The quality of each person’s high school experience varies significantly. Some people say their high school years were their best, while others maintain it was anything but. Did you know that a teen’s high school experience can affect their mental health? Negative school experiences have a tremendous impact on a person’s mental health

Can a negative school experience affect a teen’s mental health?

Negative school experiences can indeed impact mental health. For teens who already have mental health disorders like depression or anxiety, school can sometimes exacerbate their symptoms. For others, school may lead to the development of depression and anxiety. Over the last few years, research has suggested that 1 out of every 3 high schoolers in the U.S. have experienced poor mental health. More and more studies are finding that teenagers are experiencing high levels of mental health disorders. These include depression and anxiety. These disorders are often caused or worsened by negative high school experiences.

What factors can contribute to a poor school experience for teens?

There’s no shortage of factors that can affect teens’ poor high school experience. Most teenagers who report having negative high school experiences go through at least one or more of the following:

  • Bullying — One of the top factors negatively affecting a teen’s mental health during school is bullying. About 1 out of every 5 students aged 12 to 18 reported experiencing bullying within the last few years. Whether bullying occurs in person or online, it can impact a young person’s self-esteem, academic performance and social life, and even contribute to depression and anxiety.

  • Unstable home life — Another factor that can negatively affect a teenager’s mental health at school is an unstable home life. Housing insecurity, food insecurity, and rocky relationships with parents or caregivers can impact a person’s school experience and lead to a poor mental state.

  • Unstable social circle — Unstable social circles at school can also affect mental health in teens. Experiencing peer rejection and struggling to fit into a stable friend group can take a toll on someone’s mental health. Teens without stable social circles often feel isolated or alone.

  • Untreated mental health condition — Preexisting untreated mental health conditions can make a teen’s school experience challenging. It leaves them struggling with the symptoms of their disorder alone while also juggling classes, schoolwork, sports, clubs and friends. Untreated mental health conditions have the potential to make functioning in school feel impossible.

  • Academic pressure — Teens often feel immense pressure to perform well academically. This can take a toll on their high school experience. Many teens find themselves missing out on common experiences for the sake of achieving perfect scores in school. The pressure to do well can cause so much stress that it can lead to or worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety.

  • Having too busy of a schedule — Daily classes, sports activities, social gatherings, extracurricular activities and part-time jobs can make life seem like one busy haze. It doesn’t leave much room for mental health maintenance, which can contribute to both a poor school experience and poor mental health.

  • Sleep deprivation — Many teens experience sleep deprivation symptoms for various reasons. Some examples include studying during an all-nighter or hanging out late with friends. Not getting enough sleep can lead to poor mood, decreased focus and poor energy. It can also exacerbate depression and anxiety symptoms. Each of these can make the high school experience less than ideal.

Lightfully can provide treatment to improve teens’ mental health 

Our mission at Lightfully is to provide high-quality mental health care. We treat various types of clients through a focused approach to process-based therapy. The framework of our clinic consists of evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care. We have extensive experience working with young adults struggling with poor mental health. 

Lightfully offers various levels of care to both adults and teens: Residential Treatment, Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also referred to as our Day Treatment Program. We also offer a Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP) for adults. If you have experienced depression or anxiety due to your time in school, we’d like to help you. Lightfully has a history of working with teenagers and families who need a little extra help from licensed clinical therapists. Whatever your circumstances, don’t hesitate to reach out to Lightfully.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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