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How to navigate school with mental health difficulties

  • 4 min read
  • 18 September 2019

Author: Laura, 17

Topics mentioned: problems at school, self-care, reaching out for help

About: Navigating school can be tough for anybody, but if you have mental health difficulties it may be even harder. As the new school year gets underway, Laura shares some tips that have helped her.


School is tough for anyone. There’s the constant flow of work, the teachers to get along with and students to make friends with, as well as the inevitable drama that occurs as part of growing up.

Add mental health difficulties into the mix and school can seem almost unbearable. Despite this, by keeping in mind a few tips, you can get through the school year and even thrive.

If you are going through a particularly difficult time right now, it is important to let your teachers know.

Speak to someone you trust at school

It can be difficult to talk to anyone about mental health problems, including your school. You may be worried about stigma, rejection or just that they won’t take you seriously. But most schools will have dealt with students facing similar difficulties to you.

They will likely have procedures in place to help you manage school life alongside your mental health. This may include asking teachers to give you extended deadlines or giving you a time-out card that you can use if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

If you are going through a particularly difficult time right now, it is important to let your teachers know (even if they have  been told about your mental health difficulties in the past). They can then adapt the support they give you and reduce the amount of pressure they put on you.

Unfortunately, you cannot always count on teachers to spot the signs that you are struggling. If you do not feel up to telling them directly, it may be helpful to get a friend or family member to do this for you.

Yes, school is important. However, your mental health always comes first.

Remember the basics of self-care

With homework to complete, extra-curricular activities to participate in and friends to meet up with, it’s easy to forget the very basics of self-care.

This can include getting enough sleep, exercising, drinking enough water, and eating a balanced diet. However, if you neglect these essentials, you may end up feeling groggy and be more susceptible to the stress and pressure of the school environment.

If you struggle to remember these things, you may find it helpful to set notifications reminding you. I found apps like ‘Aloe Bud’ can also help with this.

Find out more about self-care
You don't need to be the best to be good enough.

Ensure that you have time to rest and have fun

Very few people can work all the time without becoming exhausted and starting to feel a bit down. We all need to rest. We all need to do things we enjoy. It doesn’t mean that you’re lazy or unmotivated or a bad student, it means you’re human.

In fact, taking regular breaks can improve your concentration and, consequently, the quality of your schoolwork. Even if they do not, remember that it is easier to catch up on schoolwork than fix your mental health if it becomes damaged.

To ensure that you have things to look forward to, you could jot down ideas of fun activities on a calendar.

We all need to rest. We all need to do things we enjoy.

Try not to put too much pressure on yourself

Schools are high-pressure environments. Teachers and parents generally want the best for you, even if sometimes this desire to see you succeed can make you feel that you are not doing enough, or make you worry that you will disappoint them if you do not get the top grades.

Please remember that, although school is important, it isn’t worth sacrificing your mental health for. You don’t need to be the best to be good enough, and you will still be loved regardless of your exam results.

Yes, school is important. However, your mental health always comes first. You can get through this year. And you will.

More advice for problems at school

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.

  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    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:
  • Not Fine in School

    Parent and carer led organisation offering information and practical resources for families of children struggling with school.

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