Can Patients with Psychosis go to School?

A school offers ex-mentally ill persons a chance to improve and learn; thus, if a patient’s condition stabilizes after treatments, one should progressively resume normal life. Furthermore, returning to school or community also facilitates recovery progress. However, if the student is not yet ready, returning to school will be hasty. Undue pressure impedes recovery. 

Provided that they receive treatments leading to a stable condition, some ex-mentally ill students can meet their past standard in learning.  Yet, treating some symptoms may require longer time, particularly negative symptoms (e.g. emotional numbness, poverty of speech, inability and lack of motivation to form relationships) and cognitive deficits (e.g. deterioration in attention and memory). These symptoms are likely to affect students’ performance in early phase of resuming school life. They may require all-party supports. The school, the families, the patients and the medical professions should establish effective communication which matters a lot in this stage. Furthermore, students may need follow-up consultations which may affect their attendance to school. So, we should closely observe ex-mentally ill persons’ situation, and adjust our expectations. We should collaborate with the school when necessary. 

It is likely that students take a long sick leave to undergo treatments. After returning to school, pressure to students and parents may arise from changes in routine life, catching up learning progress, handling examinations and assignments. Therefore, the school and the parents can make appropriate adjustments for the students. Besides, some symptoms may affect learning progress, such as lack of motivation and interest in social life. The symptoms are caused by psychosis, but owning to its ambiguous nature, families and friends may mistakenly attribute patients’ behaviours to their personalities and attitudes, misjudging that the patients are lazy, uneager to improve themselves and make changes. Thus, they may blame the patients wrongly. It is a crucial step but not an end in recovery that the students can return to school, so families, friends and schools should help ex-mentally ill students to resume their normal life at school.

On account of the symptoms, ex-mentally ill students may exhibit aberrant behaviours triggering discrimination, exclusion and even bullying in school. Research demonstrates that 30% of patients with psychosis in Hong Kong experienced verbal and non-verbal bullying in school, such as mocking and teasing at them. In this case, teachers, parents, schoolmates and social workers pay close attention and intervene.