Education, Teen Mental Disorders

An Increase in Adolescent Mental Disorders is Causing Many Teens to Turn to Alternative Education Options

By: Danielle Yanssens
Studies have shown a rise in anxiety, depression and behavioral disorders among teens. According to Psychology Today teens are five to eight times more likely to suffer from depression than they were 50 years ago. Many adolescents are simply terrified to go to school.

There are alternative schools, such as Neil E. Reid High School in Clinton Township, Michigan, with programs addressing the needs of students with severe behavioral and emotional issues. Many teens are able to attend these schools and find success. It is often helpful for them to meet other students dealing with similar issues, and is a big relief to know they are not the only ones struggling.

Teens suffering from anxiety or depression are often terrified to attend traditional school.

Teens suffering from anxiety or depression are often terrified to attend traditional school.

Many students cannot take that first step to attend any school. Credit recovery is an option, offering students the ability to take one course at a time when they are ready. However the price can be restrictive for some parents.

Attending a virtual school is an option that many have turned to. Those affiliated with public school districts are free to attend. When students feel immobilized in a classroom among other students, being able to continue their education at home can be the key to allowing them to stay on track for completing high school and earning their diploma. Some students are able to work from home for one or two semesters and then transition back to their brick and mortar school after therapy and counseling.

A My Virtual Academy parent, who requested to remain anonymous, said she thought her daughter was being defiant. She would cry and scream, refusing to leave the house to go to school. The mother went as far as trying to physically force her into the car to take her to school. She felt helpless and finally took her daughter to a psychiatrist. She discovered her daughter was suffering from depression. While her daughter was being treated for the disease, she enrolled her in My Virtual Academy to keep her from falling too far behind in school.

These alternative education avenues are not ideal for many, but they are a necessary choice for some students. For detailed information on various children’s mental health issues and their impact on their education go to http://www.macmh.org.

Danielle Yanssens is in charge of Continuous Improvement for My Virtual Academy. Her organization also offers On-site Alternative Education programs, several free online learning options and credit recovery for students throughout the state of Michigan.

Source: The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders, Psychology Today January 2010. Author Peter Gray for “Free to Learn”.

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You Can Be a Key Ingredient in Helping an At-Risk Student Earn Their High School Diploma

“Every Kid is One Caring Adult Away from Being a Success Story”
~ Josh Shipp

By: Danielle Yanssens
Teenagers drop out of school for many reasons, it isn’t always poor academics. Students may leave school for financial reasons, family caretaking responsibilities or teen pregnancy among other reasons. Students who drop out of high school are more likely to live in poverty, be incarcerated and use illicit drugs. (Hair, Ling, & Cochran, 2003)
At-risk students often get lost in large traditional high schools, but many thrive in smaller alternative or individualized school settings. Alternative education schools give students more personalized attention and often offer vocational classes. Virtual schools are great options for students suffering from anxiety, depression or bullying. Many teenage parents who are either caring for their children or working full time to support their families succeed in online school or taking credit recovery courses.
A student’s success is directly related to the amount of involvement by family members. One caring adult can lead to a higher GPA, regular school attendance, a positive attitude towards school and the likelihood of enrollment in post-secondary programs. (National Parent Teacher Association 2001) A student without family support can still succeed in high school. Any compassionate mentor – teachers, social workers, neighbors, friends or relatives can be the difference between a high school dropout and a high school graduate.

Kaylee - mentor

Kaylee Smith, teacher and mentor for MVA, with one of her students .

What can you do for a student at-risk of leaving school?
• Remind them often about the importance of getting an education
• Help them with homework
• Praise academic achievements no matter how small
• Monitor their school attendance
• Encourage positive extracurricular activities
• Tell them that people with high school diplomas earn twice as much as those without (and keep reminding them)
• Help them keep track of their credits, with graduation as the final goal
• For those students who are unhappy at their traditional school, help them find local online high schools, alternative high schools (both free to students) or credit recovery programs
Mentoring an at-risk teenager doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. Touch base with them a couple of times a week and see how they are doing. Let them know you care and tell them you believe they will succeed as often as possible.

For more information on mentoring at-risk youth visit: http://www.mentoring.org/about_mentor/value_of_mentoring
Source: Hair, Ling, & Cochran, 2003 … (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2003; American Youth Policy Forum, 1998; Hair, Ling, & Cochran, 2003; Harlow, 2003).
Source: National parent Teacher Association (2001). National standards for parent/family involvement programs. Chicago, Illinois: Author.

Danielle Yanssens is in charge of Continuous Improvement for My Virtual Academy. Her organization also offers On-site Alternative Education programs, several free online learning options and credit recovery for students throughout the state of Michigan.

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