Stay in School

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A look at the protective factors that contribute to healthy living

    It can be easy to dismiss a warning like the one titling this blog, the admonition to “stay in school”, and believe that there is little to be gained from doing so when confronting mental illness. This may be especially so if you’re a teen living the day in and day out of student life, or a parent who is fed up with their teens’ refusal and has all but given up. You may know cognitively that your son or daughter needs to go to school, but whether it’s extreme behavior problems or concern for their emotional or mental wellbeing, it feels easier at the moment to give in to their demands rather than to draw battle lines. 

    For a teen or young adult battling mental health concerns, school can seem like the smallest of worries when compared to the serious mental illness –psychosis, mania and major depression– occupying their brain space. However, the power of school should not be overlooked as a vehicle to help transport individuals out of their difficulty, and into a space where they learn to manage their ailment and live full and productive lives.

School as a Protective Factor

     Key to the efforts of keeping teens and young adults in school is recognizing early the impacts of serious mental illness, and linking individuals to safe and effective treatment that supports continuation in school and successful graduation. In this way, school becomes a protective factor for these individuals, setting them up with more resources and an ability to deal with life’s difficulties. 

     In response to risk factors such as genetic propensity to develop a mental illness, complicated family dynamics, or a questionable setting for childhood, protective factors are the conditions or attributes that contribute to mental health. Often in spite of the risks, your ability to cope with life’s difficulties, develop strong relationships, and healthy coping is what allows you to be resilient in your ability to overcome the odds. 

      As a parent, it is important that you remember to do your part and to avoid giving in to your child’s attempts to escape their responsibility to their education. Advocate for them to receive appropriate accommodations, but never reward avoidance techniques. 

The Cost of a Poor Education

     Of course, education for all teens and young adults is no exception in its ability to help set individuals up for the rest of their lives. A recent study indicated that those with a serious mental illness had an increased life expectancy of 10 years when they went on to pursue additional education after high school, compared to those who did not graduate. Analysis additionally placed their ability to remain in the workforce for another 23 years, amassing almost five times as much in lifetime earning, compared to the diminished 9 years in the field with minimal income for non-graduates.  

     Obviously the effects of not helping struggling students to stay in school are felt not just by the individuals themselves, but across the board. A large study indicated that the cost of helping a student remain in school registers at around the $34,200 price point per student. However, despite the initial financial burden, the study estimates that the intervention would lead to the same individual to make good on the investment, and produce $73,600 in lifetime benefits. 

     When facing a crisis such as mental health concerns, it can be difficult for individuals to gain momentum to make that initial investment, however it is good to note that California governor Gavin Newsome has made space in his proposed budget for early detection and treatment for individuals with psychosis-related illness, and thus the development of treatment programs that support individuals in these aims. 

     One thing is especially clear: that political and educational systems, individuals with mental illness and their parents alike all have a role to play in paving the way for brighter futures with schooling as a central feature. Call today to learn more about how Launch Centers is uniquely equipped to help struggling students return to school and accomplish their goals. 

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