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This article was written by a young person between the ages of 12-24.


High school and post-secondary classes can be extremely demanding, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed by school. This is especially true if you are struggling with your mental health, or other events in your life. 

I’m struggling to keep up

When you’re struggling with your mental health, it can be really hard to complete daily tasks, let alone homework, assignments and exams. Your energy levels and ability to concentrate are linked to your mental health, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can be hard to focus on school. If you didn’t do well on some assignments, or feel like you haven’t performed your best on a test, exam or class, there are options available to help you continue your education with more confidence. Everyone who’s struggled with their mental health knows how hard staying on top of school can be. We’re here to tell you that you’re not alone.

If you are having real difficulty with a class or have done badly on a test or assignment, you might feel like you’ve failed at life. But it’s normal to not excel in every class, especially if you have other things happening in your life, like family issues, financial problems or mental health challenges. The most important thing to remember is to take care of yourself first. 


Not taking care of ourselves (like pulling all-nighters or skipping meals) is often normalized and seen as part of school culture. However, if we don’t prioritize our physical and mental health, things can pile up and create a domino effect and we can find it hard to deal with stressful situations as they arise. 

If you’re struggling with concentrating in classes, try to make sure that you are:

  • Eating regularly, 
  • Sleeping between 7 and 10 hours a night (the right amount of sleep can be different for everyone), 
  • Moving your body every day – walking stretching, running, working out, dancing
  • Taking mindfulness breaks in between classes and studying

If you’re struggling in high school: 

High school is not easy. Throw in a global pandemic and ever-changing rules and all of this can start impacting our mental health and performance in school. A lot of youth are going through similar things, and it’s important to reach out for help as soon as you can to help get a handle on things. If we let things build up, it can cause us more stress and anxiety and we may end up feeling overwhelmed.

If you’re falling behind in your classes and feeling overwhelmed, there are people you can turn to for support:

  • Talk to your teacher(s) – Your teacher may have some tips and suggestions on which subjects or assignments to focus your energy on. They may be able to help create a plan to help you get back on track.
  • Meet with your school counsellor – Counsellors are a great source for support when you are struggling or want to talk. You can ask to keep your conversations confidential.
  • Discuss how you feel with a trusted adult – Adults in your life may be able to understand what you are going through and may have some tips for you to help get you back on track. You can talk to a parent, caregiver, coach, Case Manager, Youth Worker or Aboriginal Support Worker for support and to help advocate for you if you’re not sure how to find help for yourself.
  • Chat about it with your friends – They may be going through something very similar! If you’re worried or nervous about talking to your teacher or a trusted adult, you can ask your friends to go with you.

Taking care of yourself can mean working with trusted adults to create a new routine that incorporates time for you to do self care, go to doctor’s appointments, or do whatever else is helpful to you. You don’t have to go through this alone. 

If you’re not keeping up in post-secondary: 

It’s absolutely okay to not enjoy some courses, but if you feel that you’re not enjoying anything in school or anything outside of school, it’s definitely time to talk to someone. If you feel like having real trouble with a course is a symptom of a larger problem, or if you’re worried about falling behind in multiple courses, reach out to your school’s academic advising or counselling department, who can either assist you or direct you to folks who can. 

You may be able to explore other options* with them, such as: 

  • Talk to your course instructor about your options – can you have an extension or a deferral?
  • Consider reducing your course load at the beginning of your semester or dropping a course
  • Explore what options your institution may have for students who are struggling

*Note: options vary depending on your post-secondary institution. Get in contact with your academic advising department to learn what options are available to you.

If you think a break is what will help you the most, talk it through with your academic advisor to see how you can do this without affecting your current courses. If you plan to come back to your studies after your time off, they can also help you make a plan and discuss next steps.

All of this heavily depends on your post-secondary institution, so try to get in contact with the academic advising department as soon as possible. No matter what, know that failing a course does not determine your value or capacity to succeed!

And no matter what:

Whatever happens, know that you’re not any less of a good student or great human! Try to find allies within your school, or find friends who support you and can help you through the process, and maybe help collect information on your behalf. You can also look for resources outside of your school, like peer support, counselling, or other support options that are there for you at any point of your journey. 

Wanting to take time off to focus on your mental health, work, or otherwise, is completely okay and doesn’t mean that you’ll lose the progress you’ve made in your studies.Your progress, knowledge and strength is not lost and whatever you decide, your voice is valuable to the world around you! 

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