Beyond the books: How can teachers help their students struggling with depression?
Good day teachers!
Did you know that depressive disorders affect 1 in 5 students in your classroom? According to research, this number is likely to increase. It is vital then, to have adequate skills to spot the initial signs of depressive disorders in your classroom and know how to handle them to guide your students who may be struggling.
Let’s start with identifying the signs of depression that may indicate depressive symptoms in your students:
Persistent sadness or hopelessness: this may manifest in the form of appearing consistently sad, unhappy or unmotivated in the classroom.
Changes in behaviour: the student may become withdrawn, stop participating in class discussion or avoid interacting with their friends.
Changes in academic performance: the student may have an evident decrease in grades, fail to complete assignments on time, or miss school frequently.
Irritability: this may show in the form of easily losing their temper as compared to the past, or even showing signs of aggression towards classmates.
Physical symptoms: the student struggling with depression may also show physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches or other physical pain without an evident medical cause.
If you notice any of these signs in your students, please approach them with compassion and understanding. You can always initiate a conversation by expressing your concern and finding out if seeing a school counsellor would be beneficial for the student. Most importantly, let them know that you are there to support them.
In the classroom, here are some tips that you can adopt to handle students showing depressive symptoms:
1. Be patient and understanding
Students who are struggling with depressive disorders may struggle to get tasks or work done on time. Avoid criticising them or shaming them for their struggles as this can make their struggle worse.
2. Create a safe environment
Students struggling with depressive symptoms need to feel safe about their environment. This can mean creating a positive and all-inclusive classroom environment where all students can safely express their thoughts, feel valued and respected. This can be done through establishing clear expectations in the classroom, listening actively, and addressing stigmatisation of depression.
Self-care is a vital aspect of managing depressive symptoms. You can encourage and emphasise the importance of taking care of themselves by getting enough sleep or eating well. You can also encourage them to set realistic goals and guide them in taking small steps towards achieving these goals.
Always remember, depression is a treatable condition. With the right support and resources, a student with depressive symptoms can recover and thrive. You can make a positive difference in their lives. Thank you for trying.