Youth with mental health conditions challenged in post-secondary enrolment

Less than 50 per cent enrol in post-secondary schools


By Max Leckie

The results of a new study suggest that fewer than half of Canadians diagnosed with mental health conditions will enroll in post-secondary education by the age of 22.

Michele Bowers, the head of counselling services at Langara College, said she’s not surprised by the results, as post-secondary is already a difficult time for many people.

“It’s like the perfect storm in post-secondary for mental health,” Bowers said. “And if you want to add in a neurodevelopmental issue, it just makes things more complicated in terms of navigating stress and being able to keep up with the demands of school.”

The Statistics Canada study released in February 2019 found that 77 per cent of people without mental health conditions enrolled in post-secondary by age 21 or 22.

The enrollment rate drops to 60 per cent for those with neurodevelopmental conditions, 48 per cent for those with mental health conditions, and 36 per cent for those with a combination of both.

There are a lot of factors that determine whether someone will be able to attend post-secondary, be it income or their parents’ aspirations. However, research on the subject lacks significant data on the effects that mental health has in people’s decision and ability to enroll in post-secondary, Rubab Arim, senior research analyst at Satistics Canada and co-author of the study said.

“The findings really show that youth with diagnosed neurodevelopmental or mental health conditions may face additional barriers to attending post-secondary education that are really distinct from those challenging the general population of youth,” Arim said.

More research needs to be done to understand the large gap in enrollment between those with no mental health conditions and those struggling with them, said Arim.

Stuart Morris, a senior analyst at Statistics Canada who worked on the Canadian Survey on Disability, 2017, said a lot of mental health disabilities coincide with other disabilities.

Among those aged 15 to 24, the top three coinciding disability types were learning at 41 per cent, pain-related at 31 per cent, and memory at 22 per cent.


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