Education and Mental Illness

I love learning. I read as much as possible and can crush a general knowledge quiz. I am very thankful that I was provided with free education up to a certain point. However, the education system is not the best place for most people with mental illnesses.

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Schools can be places of extreme stress and with the rise in population it is no longer good enough to be average but you must be exceptional. This means that pressure put on students is immense. Teachers are forced to put importance on exams and how an hour or two can affect your whole future. Complete bullshit by the way. Expectations are unusually high and for someone who is very hard on me not meeting them can trigger depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.


There is little thought of the present at school. It’s all about the future or the next step and getting you there. In primary school, it became about secondary school, in secondary school, it was about A Levels and you spend most of those two years stressing about if university is for you and getting into somewhere. Everything inevitable ends up focusing on getting a career and making money.


There is no thought of individualism in school, In the UK you wear uniforms which make it hard to express yourself and explore who you are through your teen years. Rules are put into place to create “safety” but some can be crippling and unnecessary. I know that my secondary schools six formers had to wear business clothing to prepare them for the “working world”. This is if you don’t want to be an artist, builder or stay at home mum etc.


I look back at all the lies I was told in school and laugh. The insistence that you will lose the ability to go to the bathroom the older you get is completely laughable.


The education system severely lacks in non-academic topics. Taxes are never spoken about or the handling money at all.  Sex and relationships are something I was kept from as a catholic school student. (Not religious but they tend to be better in England, in my opinion.) Finally, Mental Health is not talked about and should be considering that most people say they began to feel depressed, anxious or many other symptoms of mental illness during adolescence.


I’ve heard the argument that the things above should be the job of the parent. Schools are places for academics after all. To that, I’d say that if you are spending eight plus hours a day in a system that then gives you work to take home on top of studying they should provide more than the basics. They owe us that. Also, my parents, for example, are two generations before me (my mother had me at forty, twelve years after her last child) which meant I lived in a world they didn’t understand. My family still struggles with mental illness, money and well British people such as sex talk. Although I have heard we are the kinkiest people. Who knew?


I, as someone with depression and anxiety, have applied twice to drama schools and now I am applying for university whilst doing a new a level. In hindsight taking time away from education, not taking the normal path, was the best for me. I could think and make decisions not based on my anxious minds manic episodes. It is hard applying for higher education. Rejection feels personal and as I said I expect so much from myself. Sometimes I get tired and I think that there’s no point to any of this.


Yet, I go on because I love to learn, even with a mental illness.


My advice for people going through education with a mental illness is; understanding that failure is normal and what you learn from failure sometimes makes it worth it. That icky feeling you feel when you fail is manageable. Make an action plan but remember that that can be flexible. You can walk away from all those people at school. You don’t ever have to see them and you can make up a tragic horrific story of what their future will look like to make you feel better.


That awkward stage is valuable. It gives you something to look back on and see how far you’ve come. Not in looks but in habits, thoughts, beliefs etc. Plus you don’t have to pay bills right now so chill the fuck out and have some fun. Enjoy it. Don’t wish your life away.


Talk to your teachers about your problems. They’re much more informed than they used to be but it does tend to be the way to get help is by asking for it. I told my teacher now straight out that I have anxiety and depression and how it could affect my performance. She is very understanding. If you find your teacher is not understanding, go to a higher up.


Learn to speak up for yourself. You deserve to be treated like a human.


Don’t think there’s a “safe” choice. Nothing is ever completely safe. See Jim Carrey’s amazing motivational speech.


Most of all, don’t use your illness as an excuse to not succeed. It can be an obstacle and it will knock you off your feet a lot because that’s what an illness does but you need to stand back up. You are so much stronger than people without mental illnesses because you survive with a brain that is trying to self-destruct. A lot of us blow up and some of us don’t.


Look after yourself and ignore motivational quotes on Pinterest they are the devil.


Thanks for reading



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