School exclusion linked to long-term psychiatric illness

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London, Aug 30 (IANS) Excluding children from school may lead to long-term mental health problems, a new study has shown.

Children excluded from school can develop a range of mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety as well as behavioural disturbance, warned lead researcher Tamsin Ford, Professor at the University of Exeter Medical School in Britain.

Even temporary exclusions can amplify psychological distress, Ford added.

While exclusion might precipitate future mental disorder, identifying children who struggle in class could, if coupled with tailored support, prevent exclusion and improve their success at school, she added.

The analysis of responses from over 5,000 school-aged children, their parents and their teachers in Britain found that children with learning difficulties and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and autism spectrum conditions were more likely to be excluded from the classroom.

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The study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, found more children with mental disorder among those who had been excluded from school, when they followed up on their progress, than those who had not.

Children who had a previous mental disorder were omitted from this analysis.

The researchers concluded there is a ‘bi-directional association’ between psychological distress and exclusion.

Children with psychological distress and mental health problems are more likely to be excluded in the first place but exclusion predicted increased levels of psychological distress three years later.

“For children who really struggle at school, exclusion can be a relief as it removes then from an unbearable situation with the result that on their return to school they will behave even more badly to escape again,” Ford said.

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“As such, it becomes an entirely counterproductive disciplinary tool as for these children it encourages the very behaviour that it intends to punish. By avoiding exclusion and finding other solutions to poor behaviour, schools can help children’s mental health in the future as well as their education,” Ford added.

–IANS

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