Depression in Children and adolescents A Resource for Teachers
Depression • Depression is generally defined as a persistent experience of a sad or irritable mood as well as anhedonia, a loss of the ability to experience pleasure in nearly all activities. • Depression is an illness that affects the entire person. • It changes the way the person feels, thinks, and acts. It is not a personal weakness or a character flaw Adapted from: Ralph E. Cash, PhD, NCSP Nova Southeastern University
Why Do We Care? When compared to their developmental peers, students with depression: • are less likely to participate in school activities. • are more likely to disrupt classroom activities. • often have at least one parent with depression. • are more likely to skip class and miss time away from school. • are more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as substance abuse. • are more likely to commit suicide.
Moodiness (sad, angry, irritable, anxious) Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness Low self esteem, hopelessness Tiredness, low energy, poor appetite Social withdrawal Non-compliance with rules Decline in academics Skipping classes, school absences Impaired ability to plan, organize, and use abstract reasoning WHAT DEPRESSION LOOKS LIKE AT SCHOOL
Early Identification is Key • When left untreated, depression can lead to: • school failure, • conduct disorder and delinquency, • anorexia and bulimia, • school phobia, • panic attacks, • substance abuse, or • suicide.
Early Identification is Key • Develop a caring, supportive school environment for students, parents, and staff. • Ensure that at least one responsible adult in the school takes a special interest in each student. • Know how to identify symptoms of depression http://www.hincksdellcrest.org/ABC/Teacher-Resource/The-Sad-Child/Sadness.aspx • Listen and learn how to provide support http://cymhin.offordcentre.com/downloads/Making%20a%20Difference%204-0.pdf
Reaching Out to Students • Students who are depressed may not ask for help because they believe no one cares or that nothing can be done. • Students may not want to be labeled as having a problem, particularly if they already believe they are to blame for being unpopular, unworthy, or a failure. • It is never wrong to ask a student who seems troubled if she or he is OK, but a depressed student may dismiss overtures of concern as misplaced or intrusive. • Depending on the severity of the student’s symptoms and behavior, staff members can respect this type of response but should continue to observe the student and confer with other staff members.
How Schools Can Help • Ensure the principal is aware that the student’s school success is at risk. • Share your concerns with the student’s parents/guardians • Recommend a physical examination to rule out identifiable physical causes. • Refer the student to the Mental Health Team for the development of a Behavior Modification Plan and to ensure a collaborative approach that triangulates the student with the school and community partners.
General Classroom Strategies • Depression impairs students’ ability to learn and concentrate • they may work more slowly than other students. • Ensure the student has a chance to achieve: • Eliminate less important work until the student is in recovery • Give more time • Shorten assignments.
General Classroom Strategies • Children and adolescents who are depressed are more sensitive to criticism. • Correctionsshould be accompanied by plenty of praise and support. • Make positive statements that reflect the student’s past successes • Ask open-ended questions in class. • these kinds of questions minimize any chances for embarrassment. • Show confidence, respect, and belief in the student’s abilities
Danger Of Teen Suicide • Statistically, in a school of 700 students, approximately 9 will attempt suicide in a single year. • Be aware of our Board’s procedures for dealing with students who are expressing suicidal thoughts. • Seek direction from your principal if you have questions about what to do.
Preventing Depression in Students • The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020 depression will be the leading cause of disease in developing countries like Canada. • Prevention is key to decreasing the burden of depression on society and is more cost-effective and less distressing than waiting for the condition to appear and then trying to treat it. • Evidence based programs, such as Girls Talk, are key in preventing depression amongst our students
THANK YOU! • We hope that you found this a useful introduction to depression. • Should you have questions, your Mental Health Leader is available to provide ongoing support and leadership to your team.