Children Under Pressure

Children Under Pressure

Recently, I started to think about the issues with our system of school education and potential risks they pose for some students’ mental health.

A few parents and students told me about the high level of stress experienced by children sitting for the Naplan – the government introduced exam to measure schools performance.

Apparently some schools are so pre-occupied by the exam results’ impact on their funding, that they started to put pressure on parents and students to reach higher marks.

I became aware of objective signs of distress and emotional reactions in our neuropsychological assessments, recently done with some of our clients at the clinic. In these assessments we measure core domains: Thinking, Emotion, Self-Regulation and Feeling.  See below an example of an 8-year-old boy who is quite bright (thinking skills in the superior range) but has a high level of anxiety measured by the emotion domain (borderline significance zone, means it is way below the average compared to same age boys in the Brain database).

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When I asked his mother what could cause this in his life, she told me that it is most likely from the upcoming Naplan test. This is not by any means proper scientific evidence linking the schools’ exams to mental health. But the issue needs proper attention in my opinion.  In our clinic we help some students who are high achievers and strive to perform at the top of their class at all times. This can potentially become an obsession and have a detrimental effect on physical and mental health. We will be investigating this issue and reporting further in Tweed Valley Weekly and also on our website: mindmatters.com.au.

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