Your study level

We've preselected "All levels" for you, but you can change your study level at any time by choosing one of the options on this menu. Changing your study level will return you to the beginning of the module.

A teenage boy with mental health difficulties
                  takes part in a play

The key impacts of mental health difficulties on education and learning are considered and observing and recording issues are discussed.

The table on the next slide clearly highlights the impact of mental health difficulties upon education and learning.

Scholastic attainment of students with
mental disorders
Mental disorder % of children more than a year behind in their intellectual development % of children with special educational needs
None 24 17
Emotional 44 35
Conduct 59 52
Hyperkinetic 65 71
Less common disorders (eg ASDs) 72 97

Green et al, 2005

Examining prevalence figures

When one examines prevalence figures, it is vital to be aware of the:

  • Definitions used;
  • Sampling issues; and
  • Assent issues.
Impact example: Memory impairment

Memory impairment is a frequently observed consequence of mental health issues. Students may struggle to learn new material or recall previously learned material.

Such difficulties exacerbate learning difficulties and disabilities already encountered by students with complex needs. If they are to reach their full potential it is essential that their mental health needs are addressed.

Impact example: School absenteeism

Mental health issues are positively correlated with absenteeism from school. A 1999 review of the mental health of children and adolescents in Great Britain established that children with a mental health issue were twice as likely as other children to be absent from school for a period of 11 days or more (Meltzer et al, 2000).

In a 2004 follow-up study, it was revealed that 14% of those with mental health disorders had been absent from school for more than 15 days in the academic year, compared to only 4% of children without mental health issues (Green et al, 2005). Clearly, such absence impacts upon student learning and engagement.

Similarly, another study has shown that psychiatric disorders (particularly depression) interfere with children's ability to concentrate on cognitive tasks and this can affect their ability to learn (Canadian Council on Learning, 2009).

Best practice

Holdsworth and Blanchard (2006) identified four key areas that enhance achievement and learning engagement for students with high mental health needs:

  • A holistic, trans-disciplinary approach;
  • Specific activities designed to promote strong relationships with peers, teachers and the school;
  • Relevant curriculum content and appropriate teaching and learning approaches; and
  • Shared decision making, which promotes each student's voice.
Building shared
decision making
A teacher holds a young boy's hands in
                  the playing fields behind their school

How do you build shared decision making into the lives of students with communication difficulties?

Read the following paper:

McConnell, S.R. (2002) Interventions to Facilitate Social Interaction for Young Children with Autism: Review of Available Research and Recommendations for Educational Intervention and Future Research, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32 (5).

Next, record your own ideas as to how you can build shared decision making into the lives of your student population.

Find out more

Holdsworth, R and Blanchard, M (2006) Unheard voices: themes emerging from studies of the views about school engagement of young people with high support needs in the area of mental health, Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 16 (1), 14–28.

Green, H, McGinnity, A, Meltzer, H, Ford, T and Goodman, R (2005) Mental Health of Children and Young People in Great Britain, 2004. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.