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laurs

Severe Anxiety and VCE

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laurs

My son is in year 11 and is experiencing severe anxiety and depression. We are in Melbourne so he has been remote learning off and on this year which has really made things worse. He is missing most of his classes and is way behind on all his work. The school have reduced the workload but he is finding it very difficult to manage even that. This has all worsened significantly in the last few weeks. He’s intellectually capable of doing the work, but not psychologically.

He is now seeing a psychologist, which will hopefully help, but this week he started talking about quitting school.

Has anyone else had any experience with a teenager  quitting school, due to mental health or other issues? I’ve always assumed he’d finish school and I can’t get my head around the possibility that he might not.

We are also going to look into whether medication would be a good idea. If anyone else has kids who are on medication for anxiety, how much did it turn them around? If there is a chance we could get him through this year and hopefully year 12 I would much prefer that than him quitting now.

 

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JRA

Sorry, I don't have any advice, but just wanted to say I feel for him and you. Life is really  tough for these kids at the moment

At 16, can he actually quit school?

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Expelliarmus

DD1 got through Year 12 with anti-depressants and adjustments for in-school assessments.

DD2 got through Year 12 with anti-anxiety meds and intense supports and adjustments for in-school assessments.

DS is possibly going to fail Year 11. He apparently can't remember to take anti-depressants and does not get up for school or engage with the adjustments process. He cannot leave school until 17 unless he has a trade/TAFE/course to go to. We are therefore stuck in a crazy limbo land where he can't get to school before 11am and we just hope he's doing some of the work.

In short - the kids who took medication did turn around but it was still a tough haul to get them through. We still have hope for DS but it's tougher going - I think because he isn't taking meds, but also his attitude is pretty shoddy.

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BusbyWilkes

Not in Victoria, so I am aware there are some state differences.

Its great that he is seeing a psychologist. I would definitely consider medication also, if the psych feels this is warranted. At 16/17 there are a lot of kids taking medication for these issues. I wouldn’t expect it to be a miracle fix though.

in our state, you can do ATAR subjects (which have exams and are geared towards direct uni entrance) and general subjects (which don’t have exams, still get a leaving certificate and can be used, with a bridging course for uni entrance to some degrees). What is your son currently doing? Would he be better off doing the equivalent of general subjects while he works on his mental health?

While you have expectations of what he is capable of schooling-wise, if he has severe anxiety and depression, the first goal needs to be keeping him alive, and the second is getting him the help he needs to start to rebuild his health. You are already doing these, which is great. If you know he is academically capable, he also knows this (and probably puts pressure on himself that he *should* be able to cope better). Take the pressure of school achievement away where you can. If that means dropping/changing  subjects, consider this. 
 

It’s a hard path. It may also be worth you seeing someone too, to debrief; to help to adjust your expectations etc.

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DQMission

I went through similar with my oldest. Will come back to reply properly in a little while.

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MsLaurie

Is he anxious about the amount of work, or the complexity? Do you think he’s not academically inclined so might have struggled regardless, or is it “this damn year” situation?

If he’s not suited to academics, perhaps an apprenticeship or TAFE is worth looking at, to find a better fit. If it’s about the chaos of this year, could he do year 12 across two years and have half the subject load?

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JRA
14 minutes ago, MsLaurie said:

Is he anxious about the amount of work, or the complexity? Do you think he’s not academically inclined so might have struggled regardless, or is it “this damn year” situation?

If he’s not suited to academics, perhaps an apprenticeship or TAFE is worth looking at, to find a better fit. If it’s about the chaos of this year, could he do year 12 across two years and have half the subject load?

or even VCAL instead of VCE

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Reader
Posted (edited)

In Victoria you can do an unscored VCE, which basically means you don’t do the exams. So you get your VCE but no ATAR. So you wouldn’t be able to immediately get into a course that required an ATAR but you can get into Certs, Diplomas etc and work your way into a University course that way. It worked well for my kid, who had severe anxiety but wasn’t suited to VCAL. She had great support from the school so it was the best place for her at the time rather than TAFE.

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laurs

He is 17, so he is old enough to leave school if that becomes necessary.

He’s struggled for quite a long time but has generally been able to get through just by absorbing information in class. In first semester his results were very mixed but averaged Cs and Bs. This semester with remote learning he’s been missing many classes and is avoiding doing the work because it upsets him. 
I think part of my reluctance for him to quit is that it has gone downhill so fast and who knows whether it will improve if he can get back into the classroom.
Maybe it’s just never been on our radar but neither he or I can see him doing a trade or similar. His interests tend towards computers, design and music but he’s finding even them hard now.

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*bucket*

My oldest has ASD and lots of anxiety. He started Lovan in Year 11, and it made a huge difference. So many people commented on the change in him (many that didn't know he has started medication).  By Year 12 exams, he was on 3 a day, then scaled back to 2.

Psychologist can't prescribe medication, but can definitely recommend. I really wish we had started DS on medication sooner, but I was very reluctant.

DD dropped out of school midway through Year 11. She was anxious, lost confidence, and thought she knew more than her parents about life. I was so cross with her. She ended up doing nothing educationally for quite a while (actually, nothing at all really). She was only 16, but sadly no one seemed to care that she wasn't enrolled anywhere - I was hoping for some backup to get her back. She did enrol in a Cert III when she was 18, and has since completed that, so she does have a qualification now. And works two jobs, so she has ended up doing okay, but it is getting more difficult for her to consider returning to study full time as she has financial commitments, so it feels like she has limited herself at a really young age (she's almost 21 now). It has been a tough road.

Younger DS is Year 10. He is already on Lovan, and it really helps him too.

English only requires that you pass 3 of Units 1-4, so he should be able to do Year 12 next year, even if this semester is a bit of a write off.  It may only be maths (if he's doing that) that might be problematic. Not many Unit 3/4 subjects actually require Unit 1/2 to be completed to keep going.  Although there are attendance requirements, not sure how they come into it. Otherwise, if your DS does take a while to get back on track, he could maybe do VCE at TAFE (repeat Year 11 next year)? There are computing/IT Cert IIIs  and Diplomas around, so he could do that too. Most Diplomas give you some credit towards a Uni course if you do well.

I hope your DS starts to feel better soon, with support in place. His health is by far the most important thing at the moment. Look after yourself too, it's tough going.

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amdirel

I would go to the GP and ask for a psychiatrist referral to look at starting meds. If he has a severe level of anxiety and depression, then it's going to be extraordinarily difficult for him to get through that AND senior school just with a psychologist. If you can't get in ASAP to the psychiatrist, you could see if your regular GP is willing to prescribe. 

My 15yo DD started meds about 6 weeks ago for severe anxiety, and the difference has been significant already. She also changed school though which has made a difference for her. But she's no longer avoiding school, she isn't avoiding social situations, she's only had one mild panic attack in the last couple of weeks. She's been able to stay calm and rational and problem-solve an issue she had with a girl at school in the last couple of days, which is amazing. I wish I had done it sooner. It's just been so good that the meds bring her anxiety down a notch, so that her brain can actually stop and think about using the strategies she learnt from the psychologist. She was just too far gone with her anxiety level to be able to concentrate and use the strategies, no matter how hard she tried.

Good luck.

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steppy

If he likes computers there are good vocational courses for computers. He could travel that path instead of exams and university. 

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BusbyWilkes
14 hours ago, steppy said:

If he likes computers there are good vocational courses for computers. He could travel that path instead of exams and university. 

Our friends kids who work with computers didn’t go uni pathways. The thought is that in the time it takes to do a 3-4 year uni degree, tech changes so much that the degree isn’t worth it. (Just repeating others feedback, tech related industry is def not my thing!) Most have done diplomas at tafe, 1 who was a bit of a whizz got a job based on ability (no quals). One who did a diploma is now at uni doing a very specialised degree (got in as mature age, no atar needed). 

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DQMission

OP, one of my children had similar issues. Previously existing anxiety, depression, ptsd and a few disabilities and medical conditions, which caused chronic school issues throughout his life, peaked in year 11. I think it was a combination of a lot of things that caused my child to leave high school. Hindsight has not shown me much I didn’t know at the time. Some schools handle kids with different needs better than others, as do some teachers. Social interactions made my child’s life at school miserable. He already lacked confidence and the teachers who were less than understanding of his differences eroded away any confidence he had left. 
 

Our solution was for me to borrow a few thousand dollars to pay for my child to attend a private training company in my child’s area of interest who provide year 11/12 along with a certificate 3 in the industry, which opened doors for him to undertake a dual diploma this year in business and sport management, which in turns gives him direct entry (and advanced standing)  into uni next year. To motivate him, I asked him to pay back half the borrowed fees. I thought a literal investment in his own education would be a good demonstration of faith in his own abilities.

He has been medicated for anxiety and depression from a young age but in year 11 he often didn’t leave his room for days, having panic attacks when he did. Attending the school or interacting with his school work often triggered panic attacks because his executive functioning was severely impaired and he felt out of control. 
 

The one thing I have felt I have learned is that from year 7 the conversation seems to be about ATAR and university. It’s only when students reach year 10 that other pathways seem to be discussed and even then, only as fallback. It’s unfair on the thousands of students for whom the structure of VCE doesn’t work. They are made to feel like they fall short of the ideal and that’s  inappropriate in a supposedly inclusive society. VCAL, VET, tafe certificate courses; these pathways are only *usually* discussed when ‘success’ at VCE is under threat, and often provided as an alternative to students who don’t want that pathway (mostly because it is considered a failure to keep up with the mainstream) but who are not accommodated well enough to achieve at their potential in VCE. I’m frustrated at the railroading that can go on in education. Whether well intentioned, as part of school policy or simply to make a square peg find a round hole elsewhere. As parents we are indoctrinated into the idea that the above educational pathway is the only way to succeed.

 

I also found it incredibly difficult to come to terms with knowing my child had the ability to achieve high grades and succeed but that it didn’t seem to matter to anyone but me. Some of that was denial and wanting my child to be ok. Most of it was a sense of shame that I must not have been doing enough to help him. The fact that he completed year 12 with the training company (despite only completing half of year 11 and having a daily commute of just over 4 hours to get to his classroom) shows that in the right situation (probably also with the time and space to recover from the previous year) my child was still able to achieve. It’s not been easy since then, but my child feels like he has a future and is slowly but consistently taking on more and more responsibility for his own wellbeing and educational outcomes.
 

I’m happy to discuss the ins and outs of what went on for my child via PM, but I won’t put it on the boards here again as the criticism I copped is still raw. 

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ytt

My daughter suffered badly at school from bullying which triggered bipolar, heap of anxiety disorders (OCD, eating disorder, agoraphobia with panic disorder, generalised anxiety and social anxiety).

What a ride it has been the last 4-5 years. She left in year 10, I felt sad that she didn't get the formal, couldn't say she graduated (how shallow). My son had an amazing time in year 11 and 12 with a very good cohort of kids who were all high achievers - DS is in 3rd year mechanical engineering wanting to do aeronautical engineering. DD's cohort was a disaster when a new student entered in year 8.

Anyhow, DD enrolled into Tafe and did a cert 4 in disabilities (I think). After that finished she went into a special purpose school to do year 11 and 12 over a two year period (3 subjects a year doing year 11 and 12 in one year). She blossomed and learnt so much from life from a group of disengaged and disadvantaged youths, she made friends and saw a different side of life, along with amazing staff DD became well again.

At the start of the year DD declared she didn't want to go to school but was ready for university! we looked into options and she started uni in social science with a view to change to nursing (a passion) after a year. Sadly covid hit after amazing 3 weeks of uni. Uni put in place support but had to pull that as everything went online. DD withdrew as she needed support as she hadn't done year 11 and 12, then her mental health declined rapidly. DD has withdrawn this semester so hopefully next year everything will be back to normal for face to face teaching or at least face to face support.

DD should have been in year 12 this year! she wouldn't have the formal that I wanted her to have and lol we couldn't even see her graduation. Win !!! cost us nothing lol we spared 2 years of fees!

So ditch school if it's not for the child, there are so many other opportunities out there. DD loved TAFE and has even mentioned she may go back if uni isn't back, DD thrives in adult learning as she is very mature for her age.

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