Depression in School: A Student's Trial
Teachers are trained to handle students who lack discipline, the slow learners, the extremely bright, and even kids faced with ADHD. What I've discovered, though, is that they aren't prepared to teach the students suffering from depression. Just like anyone else, teachers are very perceptive when it comes to identifying disturbed, possibly depressed students in their class, yet they often seem incapable of and uninterested in helping that student.
When I was depressed my sophomore and junior years in high school, the academic world was the last place I wanted to be. Like anyone suffering from depression, I wasn't deliberately trying to disrespect the teacher's efforts to conduct a class, but the depression overwhelmed me so that I could only see things in the broad spectrum, as opposed to concentrating on one situation at a time, such as a single class.
I found that the majority of my teachers dealt with me in one of two ways. The solution easiest for them was to ignore the fact that I wasn't absorbing any of the information being taught and simply assume that the apathy they were perceiving was typical of high schoolers. The other path was that of talking to me on a personal level. I think we are all aware of the very well defined student-teacher line; therefore, for teachers to ask the student to discuss their problems puts them in a very awkward position. Teachers are different from other adults because they hold a position of superiority over students that is especially apparent when discussing something of a personal matter.
Teachers can help to lighten a depressed student's load by creating a comfortable classroom where the student knows he/she is cared for and where the student doesn't have a time limit to suddenly cheer up. Depression takes a lot of time to get over, and school does not have to be a negative place of responsibility. If I had had a teacher that did at least one of the following things during the period of time I was depressed, I might have turned my act around a little sooner, or I might have had a more positive outcome in school.
Three tips for dealing with students who are depressed in the classroom:
Don't ignore depressed students. It shows that you don't care and invites the students to give up, guaranteeing their failure. Draw them out in class discussion and do whatever it takes to stimulate their minds so that they don't, in turn, learn to ignore you.
Let them know that you care, but without getting too personal. Help them to update any missing assignments, or set up extra study time - whether they accept your efforts or not all depends upon the severity of the depression . The fact that you've proven you care can make all the difference in the world.
Never give up on the student - regardless of how long they haven't wanted to put forth any effort in your class. Students can tell when a teacher no longer believes in them and expects them to fail, and it only ends up making the situation worse than necessary.
Contributed By Alexandra Madison
Last Updated: 23 June 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD