Mental illnesses are disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behaviour. Common mental illnesses include clinical depression, anxiety disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. If you’re finding it hard to cope with your mental illness at school, you’re not alone- here’s some advice.

Understand your mental illness

It’s easy to feel misunderstood at school if you have a mental illness which presents itself in ways that your peers and teachers are unfamiliar with. That’s why it’s important for you to understand your mental illness as much as possible. Do certain things at school trigger a negative reaction in you due to your condition? Are you unable to participate in activities because of it? Does it get in the way of your academic, social or extracurricular success? You can consult with a trusted adult or professional when answering these questions.

Get everyone on board

Communicating with your school about your experience will help them create a better learning environment for you, and it will empower you to thrive in your school life. You should communicate about your mental illness with your teachers, other staff you interact with and also consider letting your friends know (if you’re comfortable with this). If privacy is a concern for you, be sure to explain this to them before opening up. Your school may require you to bring them some documentation of your illness, in which case you’ll need to visit an expert for an assessment.

Know where to find help

Many schools as well as other public places in your community have places where you can find advice and support in managing your mental illness. Look around for counsellors and mentors who can assist you, and know how to contact them should you ever need their help. You can find a list of free nationwide resources here, or visit the SA Federation for Mental Health website to learn more about your options.

Ask for what you need

You may need resources and assistance in school due to your mental illness- that’s nothing to be ashamed of. If your condition requires you to have more writing time in exams or attend a smaller class for example, speak to your school about arranging these things. It’s important to voice this earlier on in the year, so your school can accommodate your needs.

Keep a diary

Keeping track of your daily experiences in a diary is very helpful in processing your emotions and noticing any changes, whether good or bad. Not only is this good for your personal use, it’s also helpful if you ever need to refer back to a situation.

If you need more advice on dealing with mental illness at school, remember you can always reach out to us viaAsk CellCgirl. It’s free, easy to use and 100% confidential.

Having a mental illness is not something you should be ashamed of, and hiding it away often does more harm than good. Don’t be afraid to communicate your needs and create a school environment that supports you in achieving your goals. Good luck!

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