Author: Luca, 23
About: Luca struggled with anxiety at school and felt isolated. They share ten things they wish school had done to support their mental health.
When I was about 15, I started really struggling with my mental health. This resulted in a lot of anxiety around going to school and my grades. After I’d finished my GCSEs, and was planning to return for my A-Levels, my anxiety had gotten so bad that my mum had to inform the school.
They allowed me to study from home a few days a week, but this left me feeling more isolated and alone. Looking back, there are several things I wish my school had done to make the experience easier for me.
I often didn’t feel like an individual to them.
Recognised that I wasn’t being lazy
Unfortunately, it’s something that anyone suffering with their mental health has heard at one time or another. At first, I definitely got the feeling that my teachers assumed this was a way for me to get out of doing my school work, which wasn’t the case at all.
Put less pressure on me to get good grades
The last thing I needed to think about when struggling with my mental health was that I wouldn’t get my predicted grades, but teachers put so much emphasis on it. I often didn’t feel like an individual to them.
The anxiety of meeting expectations made my mental health worse overall.
Recognised my ‘best’ wouldn’t be the same every day
Some days I would have the energy to go to school and be engaged, other times it felt impossible just getting out of bed. The anxiety of meeting expectations made my mental health worse overall.
Had more awareness of mental health
I definitely think things have changed a lot in the last few years. Mental health is much more talked about and awareness is a lot better than when I was at school. I do wish my teachers had a better understanding of what I was going through and how much it impacted my life.
I wish I could’ve been presented with three or four options and been able to choose what was best for me.
Trusted that I knew myself better than anyone
A lot of talks about my mental health included language like ‘they think’ or ‘in their view’, which was extremely frustrating when I knew myself and I knew something wasn’t right.
Been more willing to make concessions and be flexible
The only solution they reached was to have me study some days at home and some at school, which helped in the short term, but was detrimental in the long term. I wish I could’ve been presented with three or four options and been able to choose what was best for me.
They would talk to my parents and that information would be relayed to me, which made me feel like a child.
Sat down and talked to me about things
It’s baffling, but at no point did any of my teachers, my head of year, or the head of sixth form sit down and talk to me. It all happened around me. They would talk to my parents and that information would be relayed to me, which made me feel like a child, even though I was 16/17 at the time.
Joined together with my other teachers to form a coherent plan
I wish all three of my teachers had sat down and worked together on how best to help me. Instead, the process felt extremely disjointed, with some teachers being more committed to helping me than others.
My experience of mental health issues was entirely unique, as is everyone else’s.
Focused on just getting me through
Honestly, at this point in my life, every day was a struggle. I just needed someone to motivate me to get to the end of the week, to support me, and to understand that I wasn’t thinking about grades or university. I just needed to get through this time in my life.
Understood that everyone’s experiences of mental health issues are different
The way in which my depression, social anxiety, and high-achiever aspirations intersected meant my experience of mental health issues was entirely unique, as is everyone else’s. I wish they had understood that instead of giving me well-intended advice that had helped other people.
It can be extremely scary, but I would encourage anyone to reach out.
Like I said, I do think awareness of mental health issues, especially among young people, has greatly improved over the last few years, and if you’re in school and struggling with your mental health, you are definitely not alone.
It can be extremely scary, but I would encourage anyone to reach out and talk to someone about it, because you don’t know what options there are until you ask.
More information and advice
We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.
Where to get help
However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.
If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.
Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.
Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.
- Opening times:
Text SHOUT to 85258.
Shout provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.
All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.
Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.
Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.
Please note: From the 1 April 2023, texting ‘YM’ to 85258 will no longer be available to use. You can still use Shout as a support service for your mental health.
Shout is a separate and external organisation from YoungMinds.
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