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School refusal and depression

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School refusal and depression

My son is almost 14yo im a single mum doing it tough. He has all the signs of depression he has GP referral for paediatrician to diagnose and put him on a mental health plan. He is in year 8 the school is great and supportive and he often sees well being officer the school caters for kids that struggle and have recently set up a safety action plan due to being bullied in and out of school by same person ongoing for 12mths (they were good friends) this escelated to where i had to put a personal protect order so my son is happy and safe at school and home. Prior to this my son has always been about 2yrs behind in his education and peers. He makes friends easily he is a kind and understanding and very diverse and accepting if others. Since COVID with home schooling being inconsistent etc my son has been refusing to go to school he is very down within himself and is a typical teen boy hormones kicking in etc i am very concerned about his education which will affect his future he cant drop out in year 8. I dont expect grade A student just to do his very best and try new things. I communicate with the yr 8 coordinator often and i dont know what to do to get him to go to school ive tried many things even rewards or give him more independence more mature decision making. Every night he convinces me that he will go to school but in the morning he will not budge to get up and at the moment he hasnt gone for almost 2wks which he agreed to go at least 2days a week but not even that is happening. He blames his depression and refuses to go no matter what i try. I cant punish him as his depression will get worse and this wil cause more mental health problems. I don't know what to do im desperate for advice so he can atleast do another 3 years which legally and moraly he can get an apprenticeship or traineeship at 15yo or complete yr 10. Im sorry to babble on but i cant sit back and do nothing yet I can't force him as i take depression/anxiety and education for a better future. Does anyone have a similar situation that might be able to shed some light my way.

Community Manager

Re: School refusal and depression

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Hi @Gordi , 


Thank you for reaching out and sharing with us what's going on for your son right now. I'm really sorry to hear that you're struggling to get him to go to school, but it sounds like you're being very supportive and doing everything in your power to stay involved and encourage him to finish off his education.


You mentioned that your son doesn't want to go to school because of his depression, which I can completely understand. It can be really difficult to muster the energy to do anything when you're depressed, let alone go to school. What do you think your son would need to feel comfortable going to school? It sounds like you've tried quite a few things already, but maybe it could be useful to ask him what changes between night time when he promises to go to school and the next morning when he refuses? 


I can definitely understand your concerns about exacerbating your son's mental health by making him go to school. Forcing your teen to do something they don't want to do can be heartbreaking when they're struggling, and can make you question whether you're doing the right thing. While I can't offer insight from the perspective of a parent, hopefully I can give you some hope as someone who experienced depression and didn't want to go to school. My parents used to drive me to school or walk me to the bus stop and watch me get on to make sure that I actually went to school, even when I didn't want to. I used to call them from school and ask them to pick me up, and while they did so at first, eventually they made me stay there. At the time, it felt unbearable and I wasn't very happy about it, but they made it clear that they weren't punishing me or kicking me while I was down - they were simply trying to make sure that my depression didn't steal opportunities from me. If you communicate openly with your son and let him know that he has to go to school, but that you will do everything in your power to make being there as comfortable and smooth as possible, hopefully he will be able to recognise that you are on the same team. 


If you feel as though it would be helpful for you, here's the link to our community thread on school refusal. Here, you can talk to other parents who are struggling with school refusal and hopefully gain something from sharing your stories with each other. Hang in there, @Gordi Heart

Active scribe

Re: School refusal and depression

Hi Portia
Thank you kindly for your advice you have given me some insight of what its like to be forced to go to school and great advice on what yr parents said to you. I have worked out a plan with my sons well being counselor and at this stage we have agreed on 2 days a week i do hope that ot will increase i dont want to think that his future will be bleak without a decent education. Thank you you have been very understanding

Re: School refusal and depression

Hi @Gordi, we are so glad that you have found our advice and support helpful. It is great that you have been able to work out a plan with the well-being counselor. Two days a week is a really good start and sometimes increasing daily activity can improve mood, even if if it is difficult at the start. All the best and please feel free to keep us updated here. I know a lot of parents have experienced similar struggles - you are not alone Heart

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