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Relationship between Social Exclusion and Mental Health

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Health And Social Care
Wordcount: 4921 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Individuals who suffer with mental health problems are among the most excluded groups in the UK (Boardman, 2011, p. 112). Highlighting the significance of focusing on individuals who suffer with mental health problems as a socially excluded group and the difficulties that these individuals may face within society. It is also important to critically examine the role of education policies and interventions as methods of ameliorating or reinforcing social exclusion.  This paper will critically discuss social exclusion and mental health, discussing the interventions that currently exist but also emphasising what more could be done within the education system in order to ameliorate social exclusion.

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There are many groups within society today that are at a greater risk of social exclusion, one being those with poor mental health. Many definitions exist when defining social exclusion, as society has developed new definitions have been developed in order to stay relevant in the changing world. Levitas et al. (2007) defines social exclusion as the lack of resources, goods and services but also the inability to have normal friendships and to participate in normal activities, affecting quality of life and also the working of society.

Poor mental health from childhood to adulthood should be prevented in education through early intervention and support. Adults with mental health issues are one of the most excluded groups in society, less than a quarter of these adults are in employment (The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 2004, p. 3).  Support is needed once pupils leave education in relation to future employment, for all pupils as well as those with poor mental health that is known to the school or college. Ill mental health is both a cause and a result of social exclusion, poor mental health can lead to unemployment due to stress and anxiety, leading to social exclusion. Social exclusion due to unemployment can also lead to poor mental health.

Individuals who suffer with severe poor mental health cannot control their condition and therefore they may not be able to work. Arthurson (2002 cited in Arthurson and Jacobs, 2004) suggests that social exclusion is created through a lack of rights such as the prevention of access to housing and education. It is also cited that unemployment due to social exclusion prevents the access of useful tools and activities that are accessible to other members of the community such as consumption and saving. Unemployment can have a negative impact on the amount of disposable income an individual can spend to socialise with friends and the available income an individual can save to go towards a deposit or a mortgage regarding housing. If an individual is not socialising with friends due to the lack of disposable income, this can also lead to problems regarding their mental health. If an individual does not have the relevant support once they have left school, they may find it difficult to find employment.

On the other hand, additional support for pupils with poor mental health wouldn’t be necessary if intervention occurred whilst they were still in education, in order to provide pupils who suffer with ill mental health the support they need at a younger age. A report published by the Children’s Society (2008) states that 70% of people who have experienced mental health problems have not had suitable interventions at an early age. Suggesting a lack of knowledge of mental health and the age it can occur, having an impact on prevention and intervention on mental health problems in childhood. However, children may not have the knowledge to report how they feel as a mental health problem, thus only realising it is a problem as they get older and when they are more knowledgeable about mental health. The Mental Health Foundation (2016) believes that many mental health problems are avoidable, with a considerable scope for increasing interventions to reduce the amount of people developing mental health issues. Therefore, suggesting that early intervention and prevention should occur within education as well as more awareness within the classroom in order to benefit all pupils.

Additional mental health funding in the UK can help ameliorate social exclusion within education. In a speech to parliament, The Chancellor of the Exchequer (2018) announced an increase funding for mental health services by at least £2bn a year by 2023-2024. It was also announced that schools will have new dedicated and specialist teams to support pupils with mild and moderate mental health problems. Pupils may be more willing to talk to a specialist in an environment they are comfortable in, such as a school or college. If pupils are more open about how they feel mentally, with the opportunity to seek help at school with a specialist rather than just their teacher, early intervention can occur. The amount of mental health problems can decrease in children and adolescents if every pupil has the opportunity to approach a specialist within their education environment, rather than keeping how they feel to themselves.

The Office for the Deputy Prime Minister (2004) suggests that mental health problems can lead to social exclusion due to the barriers people face in the community. Individuals with mental health problems may not want to participate in social activities alone but they feel that there is no one they can ask to go with them. Education can help eradicate social exclusion in relation to poor mental health by creating groups to help everyone feel included in the school community. However, in a report published by Brown (2018) it was found that only 56% of primary schools and 44% of secondary schools were providing mental health support. The statistics show that schools can be doing much more when supporting pupils with difficulties in order to work towards ameliorating social exclusion within education. Therefore, schools should be creating policies and interventions to help pupils who suffer with mental health problems feel included within the school community and society in order to prevent social exclusion but to also promote social inclusion within their community.

Schools can also indirectly help eradicate social exclusion within education for pupils suffering with mental health difficulties. Sparkes (1999) states that research evidence suggests that poor attainment is crucial when generating and sustaining social exclusion, test schools are the most effective predictor for many future outcomes. Teachers can help support pupils with mental health difficulties academically in order to help them not become excluded within society. Social exclusion can be ameliorated within education for an individual with mental health problems if teachers provide the relevant support, so that mental health doesn’t influence educational attainment and also their future life-chances and opportunities, giving all pupils an equal education. Public Health England (2014) published an article outlining the findings that pupil wellbeing predicted pupils later academic achievement and attainment within education. Suggesting that pupils who have a healthier mental well-being are more likely to be academically successful than individuals with a poor mental well-being. Highlighting the importance of teachers in schools ensuring that all pupils are given the necessary support, especially individuals suffering with mental health problems.

Although, not all schools can support pupil’s mental health and social exclusion. An article by Weale (2017) found that budget cuts within schools are leading to cuts in vital pastoral support for pupils with a mental illness. Therefore, not all schools have the funding to employ support workers or to organise activities out of school hours to support pupils with a mental health issue to ameliorate social exclusion. A lack of support for mental health in schools will have a significant influence on pupils from disadvantaged areas in the UK. The Mental Health Foundation (2016) advocates the idea that people with mental health problems are more likely to live in areas of high deprivation, have less qualifications and are less able to become employed. Thus, suggesting that more funding for mental health support within education is necessary, especially for schools in deprived areas.

Disadvantaged pupils are at an increased risk of suffering a mental illness through not receiving the appropriate support whilst at school. Eventually leading to social exclusion as people suffering with poor mental health are less able to secure employment, due to the stigma and attitudes surrounding mental health and employment. The Office for the Deputy Prime Minister (2004) found that discrimination against people with mental health problems is apparent within society with less than four in ten employers saying that they would employ an individual who suffers with a mental health problem. Therefore, mental health problems can both lead to and reinforce social exclusion through the negative attitudes surrounding recruitment and mental health. Highlighting the importance of mental health support in schools to help ameliorate social exclusion in education and in an individual’s future once they have left education.

Education and schools may not be able to control social exclusion, especially within friendship groups and peer relationships. Putnam (2000 cited in Evans and Smokowoski, 2016) believes that social capital is the benefits gained from social relationships, individuals form social relationships with the exception to profit from their interactions with others. Social ties with the ‘popular group’ will allow individuals to receive information about social events outside of the school environment. Pupils suffering with poor mental health often isolate themselves from other people, therefore they may not be involved in various social events that their school peers are involved in. Fundamentally, this may lead to isolation and a lack of self-worth where an individual develops into adulthood without peer relationships and social interactions. Consequently, in the future this can lead to social exclusion, negatively influencing community effects, role models and informal contacts within employment, that will then go on to have a poor impact on mental health and an individual’s personal self-worth.

The school environment and different friendship groups within the playground may act as a microcosm of the community. Therefore, if an individual is socially excluded in education and within the classroom environment, they are also likely to be socially excluded within society as they get older. In a review of social exclusion, Hackney Council (2016) state that inequalities in rates of exclusion can be seen as a microcosm of a wide range of other inequalities, in both education and elsewhere. Suggesting that inequalities that is causing an individual to be socially excluded is caused by other inequalities within education and society, where an individual may not just be disadvantaged in one aspect. In relation to people who are socially excluded with a mental illness, this social exclusion may also be caused by other aspects of inequality within the education system and the structures of society. Therefore, schools may in fact be reinforcing social exclusion through being a microcosm of the wider community. Social exclusion within education may also be a microcosm of other aspects of inequalities within education and society, reinforcing social exclusion within the education system.

The education system may in fact reinforce social exclusion rather than ameliorating it and promoting social inclusion. Even if schools are working towards reducing pupil’s vulnerability in relation to social exclusion and improving levels of self-worth in order to promote positive mental attitudes, social exclusion may still occur due to the type of school. 

‘Exclusion in education can result from structural factors, pupils from relatively poor areas are most likely to end up studying in poorer schools and be at a higher risk of dropping out.’

(Razer et al. 2013, p. 1153).

If pupils drop out, they are less likely going to have gained qualifications in order to get a job and become employed. Social exclusion can be manifested through not voting and the lack of democratic decision making within the community, such as the general election. Patrick (2017) found that in the 2010 general election, there was a 23% gap between the turnout of the richest and poorest income groups because those living in poverty feel excluded and disconnected from the voting process. However, pupils who have dropped out from school may not have the knowledge or the understanding on the topic or democratic decision they are voting towards. In adulthood, feeling disconnected from the community can have influences on mental health that schools in deprived areas cannot necessarily control due to structural factors, as there is an increased chance of pupils dropping out even if their school is working towards promoting social inclusion.

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Environmental factors in an individual’s life is also a determinant for poor mental health, consequently leading to social exclusion. The World Health Organisation (2014) suggests that children from poorer backgrounds are likely to have greater exposure of poor environments and stressful family contexts that can lead to mental health problems and exclusion. Environmental factors such as poverty or a stressful home life is not something schools can easily support directly in a way to prevent mental health problems. Although, schools can directly support those suffering with mental health disorders due to environmental factors through interventions to ameliorate and prevent social exclusion.

On the other hand, schools can work towards preventing mental health problems, especially for pupils having difficulties at home as they may not live in an environment where they feel safe talking to someone at home. Steele (2018) discovered that only 70% of secondary schools in England offer counselling. This statistic shows that not every school in the UK is providing its pupils with the opportunity to talk to a professional that is not a teacher in order to support this child mentally, especially for younger children in primary schools. Primary school pupils may not have an understanding of their mental health or what their feelings mean. Highlighting the importance of having the necessary support available to spot the warning signs that the child, or people at home may not notice as a problem. Early prevention and intervention in relation to mental health in schools will also prevent social exclusion as children develop into adulthood. Anvik and Waldahal (2018) believe that schools play a significant role in preventing mental health problems from affecting the development and academic opportunities of pupils. Emphasising the significance of all schools having someone available for pupils to approach about how they feel. Mental health problems can have further impacts in relation to social exclusion especially for children who have problems at home that schools cannot directly control.

However, the stereotypical view of mental illness could be learnt as a child and continually referred through social construction. Olasfsdottir and Bakhriari (2014) suggest that the perspective of social construction views the world as created through human interaction over time. The question exists as to what constitutes a mental illness and whether it constitutes as a biological problem or a socially constructed cultural problem. The label and stigma of mental illness may make the disorder worse, Scheff (1966) believes that the labelling mental disorders is a way of categorising behaviour that doesn’t make sense to other people. Therefore, mental illness as a social construct has led to the labelling of people to have a mental disorder or a mental problem, consequently creating a negative stigma surrounding mental illness that can lead to social exclusion. The negative stigma surrounding mental health can lead to social exclusion through discrimination and the barriers individuals will face. The Office for the Deputy Prime Minister (2004) found that many people fear acknowledging their mental health condition, even to people they know. Within the community, mentally ill people may face barriers to access services such as public transport and employment but also not feeling comfortable or open about their mental health in order to receive help.

Although, labelling and categorising behaviour can be positive in order to provide individuals who are suffering with a mental illness the help and support they may need. On the other hand, The World Health Report (2001) found that around 450 million people currently suffer with mental disorders but nearly two-thirds of people who suffer with a known mental disorder choose to not seek professional help. Therefore, individuals are still suffering with a mental health problem, whilst also suffering with social exclusion and the stigma and labelling of having a mental health disorder, but they are still not receiving the necessary help or support. Individuals may not have access to professional help due to their social exclusion. People with mental health problems are excluded from health services that are available to others, leading to unequal health outcomes (Sayce and Curran 2007 cited in, Payne 2012, p. 2). Fundamentally, the solution is providing support that mental health individuals as a socially excluded group can receive in order to gain relevant and necessary help.

Currently the government are working to provide support within education in order to help young people suffering with mental health problems. The Green Paper (2017) was published by the Department for Education and the Department for Health, including several proposals to improve support for mental health in schools. One of the proposals is to ensure that every school and college identifies and trains a Designated Senior Leader for Mental Health. Even though this is progress to support pupils suffering with mental health problems and a step towards ameliorating social exclusion within education, many can argue it is an intervention that should have been introduced to the education system years ago. A report by The Kings Fund (2015) found that people with mental health problems do not receive the same quality or access to services as people with physical illnesses, three in four people with mental health problems in England receive little or no treatment. Highlighting the significance of mental health, especially within education being seen as equally as important as physical health, with the introduction of policies and interventions when necessary.

Mental health may not just be the responsibility of schools and the education system. O’Reilly et al. (2018) suggests that schools should be viewed as only one part of a multi-agency approach towards the promotion of adolescent wellbeing. Many stakeholders can work towards improving the wellbeing of children into their adolescence and adulthood. An individual may not feel comfortable talking about their mental health to their teachers in the school environment. Parents or other family members may be able to provide support as well as teachers in order to create a system to help and support the individual who is suffering with mental health difficulties. In order for teachers to be able to provide the support for pupils suffering with mental health problems the government are a significant stakeholder. In order for teachers to feel comfortable providing this help and support it is important that the relevant training is available. Although, the most significant stakeholder appears to be the individual’s family. Lavis et al. (2015 cited in Pope, 2018) discovered that families are involved in many aspects of mental health problems from initiating help-seeking services, attending appointments, managing medications and monitoring their loved one’s mental state.

On the other hand, mental health and social inclusion may only be in control by the individual who is suffering. Mental health policies and interventions within education may be helpful to an extent in order to ameliorate social exclusion, however the individual is the only person who can control their own mental health and their recovery. Wong et al. (2014) discovered that individuals who suffered with mental health problems and social exclusion found recovery through commitment to recovering and empathy, redefining themselves as a person and learning to manage their mental illness. Therefore, this shows that there is only so much education can do in order to help those with a mental health issue, as recovery is personal and a different experience for each individual. It may be more beneficial if mental health policies within education helped with preventing these issues. If individuals suffering with mental health problems are in control of their own recovery, mental health interventions within education are going to be very limited with the useful support that they can provide. Although, family members can provide support in order to help the individual access the help that they need in order to learn to manage their mental illness and begin their recovery process.

In conclusion, the education system is not doing enough regarding mental health policy and interventions in order to ameliorate social exclusion and to support individuals suffering with mental health problems within education. If more policies and interventions were introduced in the education system, social exclusion would be better controlled within education as education has the power to do so, to make a difference in an individual’s life. Support for pupils leaving education and going into employment is important in order to abolish social exclusion. Unemployment can lead to mental health problems but students suffering with mental health problems can also find it difficult to find employment. Structural factors can also reinforce social exclusion within education that the education system cannot control. Pupils from poor areas are more likely to drop out of education that can lead to unemployment and poverty, but also exclusion from the community and politics in terms of voting and this can lead to mental health issues. More funding to support mental health interventions can help ameliorate social exclusion in relation to pupils suffering with mental health problems, especially in schools in deprived areas. Although, it is not purely just the responsibility of schools and the education system. Family members also play an important role when supporting the mental health of their child or sibling, the combination of the family and the school can help an individual who is suffering with mental health issues as well as ameliorating social exclusion. 

Therefore, education does play an important role when ameliorating social exclusion in relation to pupils suffering with mental health problems, although it is not only the responsibility of the education system. There are many stakeholders that can support an individual within a socially excluded group, such as someone who is suffering a mental illness in order to ameliorate social exclusion. Education is only going to be a stakeholder for a certain amount of time, whereas the individual, the government and family are all much more sustainable as a stakeholder to help support the individual within a socially excluded group.  Conclusively, to an extent the education system in relation to schools, education policies and interventions can help ameliorate social exclusion within education. It is also the support of other stakeholders that can also make a difference. However without policies and interventions to eradicate social exclusion within education, the issue of exclusion would be much larger as the education system has the power to make these changes to make a significant positive influence towards an individual’s life and future.

Reference List

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         Pope, M. (2018) Everyone Has a Role”: Perspectives of Service Users with First-Episode Psychosis, Family Caregivers, Treatment Providers, and Policymakers on Responsibility for Supporting Individuals With Mental Health Problems, in Qualitative Health Research, pp. 1-14.

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         Weale, S. (2017) Schools fear impact of budget cuts amid girls’ mental health crisis (online).


     Wong, Y., Stanton, M. and Sands, G. (2014) Rethinking social inclusion: Experiences of persons in recovery from mental illness, in American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84(6), pp. 685-695.


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