Thoughts | Education and Mental Health

My mental health is not a common topic of discussion here on Yours, Chloe. It's always been an area that I like to keep on the hush side whenever possible, both online and off. I struggle with thoughts - as I know many people in my situation do - that nobody believes there's anything truly wrong, almost as if that which cannot be seen isn't there. This is so far off reality as mental illness is very much real and something that needs to be discussed. So, I'm biting the bullet and starting a dialogue on the topic, here on Yours, Chloe. Beginning with my experiences of the relationship between mental health and the education system. This is a post I wrote earlier this year (back in August to be exact).

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On the morning of Thursday 18th August 2016 I had an envelope handed to me; and the contents of that envelope - be it a tad on the disappointing side - marked the end of my time at school.

Sixth form was somewhat of a struggle. My mental health was all over the place and I spent a great deal of time over the two years desperate to be anywhere but inside the four walls of the school building. I sat my exams in a month rife with panic attacks, tears, poor eating habits and sleepless nights. How on earth anyone can think the current British secondary education system is of a good standard is beyond me; such unhealthy school and exam experiences as mine are far too common.

Treatment of mental health problems within education is on the brink of awful. The commonly used comparison of physical and mental health problems is so key here; break your leg and you would never have to complete a PE lesson, struggle with depression or anxiety (or anything else under the spectrum of mental health) and more often than not a grand total of 0 allowances are made for you. Even when you're at war with your own mind on a daily basis, schools expect nothing but perfection from you.

One of the biggest impacts my mental health had day-to-day at school was in regards to my concentration. "Diminished ability to concentrate" is in fact an official symptom of depression and for those in education it can have a particularly damaging effect. I found myself on so many occasions taking in little to no information per fifty minute lesson. I'd leave classrooms and have trouble stating what we'd actually been learning about. This meant that there were countless topics and units that I simply had to teach myself at a later date. It also meant that I had to deal with the frustrated comments from teachers in regards to my failure to retain information, even though every single one of them was aware of my struggles. This evoked feelings that I'd let people down.

I'm writing this on results day 2017, one whole year since I received my A Level results. It wasn't all bad that day, I did receive the amazing news that I had been given a place at my top choice university and I will be starting there this September. I've taken a year out of education to give myself a bit of a break and it has had a hugely positive impact on my mental health. Taking a gap year is something I'd hugely recommend, it has left me refreshed and ready to take on university.

There is one thing that I have learnt through my experiences at the end of my compulsory education and it is something I wish for you to take with you following this post. You are worth so much more than a single letter on an exam certificate. Exams can be re-sat but there's only one of you, so don't sacrifice your health in pursuit of good grades.

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