The NSW Mental Health Commissioner, Mr John Feneley, raised a serious point that is often overlooked in all the excitement as children begin school or move to High School for the first time.
He emphasised the reality that success in education is
“A passport to personal satisfaction and worldly success, while a lack of formal qualifications excludes people from an increasingly wide range of occupations.”
The reality he noted is that a substantial minority of students will not complete their education because they suffer anxiety, depression or other mental conditions that limit their capacity to participate. In contrast to most physical diseases, mental illness usually makes it presence felt early.
As the Commissioner states
“By age 14, half of all lifetime cases are already apparent while three-quarters have their onset by age 24.”
Indeed mental disorders, according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, account for an exceptionally high proportion of the total burden of illness suffered by young people, 36% of it in people aged 15-44, double the impact of injuries and five times that of cancer (SMH, Jan30, 2013).
This is an enormous challenge to all involved in health and education as various reports have shown how early mental illness locks in a lifetime of disadvantage. So often, people look at the homeless and ask how they reach this point. The ongoing research is challenging everyone involved in education to support those students struggling with mental illness so that they can receive the appropriate support, find the path they need to successfully complete their study and hopefully enjoy a fulfilling life.