Depression is the number one illness globally among 10-19 year old children and adolescents and suicide is the third leading cause of death (World Health Organization, 2014). There are many steps educators may take when concerned about a child, teenager, or student.
Learn about the signs and symptoms of depression. Depression may exhibit itself differently in children than in adults. Students may appear unmotivated or uncaring about their school work, when in fact, they may be unable to function at their full potential due to depression. It is important to learn to recognize warning signs. Untreated depression can lead to serious problems including risk-taking behavior, academic decline and failure, social alienation, substance use/abuse, and increased risk for suicide. For a printable resource sheet on Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Children click here.
Here is what to watch for:
- Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying more often or more easily
- Decreased interest in activities; or inability to enjoy in usual activities
- Persistent boredom; low energy
- Social isolation/withdrawal: spending time alone, away from family and friends, poor communication
- Becoming “clingy” and more dependent on relationships with parents and caregivers
- low self-esteem
- Overly pessimistic and negative thinking
- Excessive guilt or feelings of worthlessness
- Extreme sensitivity
- Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
- Difficulty with relationships
- Frequent complaints of physical illness such as headaches and stomachaches
- Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school
- Poor concentration
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits/patterns
- Talking about or planning to run away from home
- Thoughts of death, worrying loved ones will die
- Talking about suicide or dying
- Reckless or self destructive behavior; taking risks and showing less concern for own safety
There are many things educators may do to help a student with depression. For a printable resource sheet on Guidelines for Educators, click here.
What You Can Do:
1. Talk and ask the student how they are feeling. Offer care, concern, and support.
2. Connect with their family.
3. Express your concerns with the school counselor/psychologist/nurse/ and support staff. An individual plan may be set in place on how to best support the child.
4. Focus on providing positive feedback to your student.
5. Provide opportunities for success and recognition. These may help boost self-confidence and connect the student to their class.
6. Model positive actions. Children need to see what healthy behavior looks like and may only receive this example in the school environment.
7. Teach problem solving skills.
8. Provide extra learning support. If a child is depressed, they may need extra help with academic tasks. Breaking assignments into smaller pieces, offering extra help with their schedule or study habits, and/or pairing a student with a peer may all provide ways to assist.
9. Teach Hope. See information below and visit Schools for Hope to learn more about our free curriculum. Hopelessness is the number one symptom of depression and leading predictor to suicide (Association of Physicians, 2004), therefore iFred developed a curriculum based on research that hope is a teachable skill, with the goal to support youth mental health and prevent suicide.
If you are concerned a child is in danger of harming oneself or anyone else and refuses help, call 911. To speak with a crisis counselor, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website for additional resources.
*For a printable list of crisis numbers and online resources, click here.
Schools for Hope
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, 1 in 9 students attempt to take their life before graduating high school, with 40% in grade school. An increase in suicide attempts happen when students reach sixth grade.
With hopelessness as the number one symptom of depression and leading predictor to suicide (Association of Physicians, 2004), iFred developed a free curriculum program called Schools for Hope based on research that suggests hope is a teachable skill. Our goal is to provide fifth grade students with the social and emotional learning tools to have and maintain hope throughout life’s challenges. By providing students with pathways to hope, no matter what they may experience, we ultimately can save lives.
For information on how your school and community can be involved, please visit www.schoolsforhope.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can make a difference in the life of a child. #teachhope
Choices Magazine by Scholastic: “We Have Depression” An article written by teens sharing the stories of four classmates and their depression. For more resource information please visit: http://choices.scholastic.com/
Get Help For Someone Online/List of Social Media Safety Teams: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/gethelp/online.aspx
APA Reference: Cohen, H. (2007). Children and Depression. Psych Central. http://psychcentral.com/lib/children-and-depression/0001007
Depression: Suggestions for School Staff. http://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/families/mental-health-difficulties/depression/depression-suggestions-teaching-staff
Huberty, Thomas J. Depression: Helping students in the classroom. National Association of School Psychology. http://www.nasponline.org/communications/spawareness/depressclass_ho.pdf
Schimelpfening, Nancy (2014). Depression in Children. Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Children. http://depression.about.com/od/childhood/a/signssymptoms.htm
Web MD (updated May 2013). Medical Reference from Healthwise, Incorporated. http://www.webmd.com/depression/tc/depression-in-childhood-and-adolescence-topic-overview