How Does Teacher Support Reduce Depression in Students?

How Does Teacher Support Reduce Depression in Students?

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There was a time when depression was a distant word in our society, not associated with the typical person. However, in modern times, it is not wrong to say that depression is becoming increasingly common. According to a study, depression was observed in adolescent students aged 11 to 19, with all severe cases occurring in early teenage girls. 

This is alarming for parents and teachers, who must take note of instances of depression in children. Unfortunately, many parents have no idea about the symptoms and signs of depression, which exacerbates this issue further. Parents, sometimes preoccupied with their occupations, may not be aware of their children’s mental health. In such instances, teachers must help students who need support in tackling depression and inform parents.

Different signs of depression in students

Students with depression may show:

  • Irritability or sadness
  • Lack of motivation, tiredness, and low energy
  • Tendency to skip school and classes
  • Unwillingness to participate in activities or socialize
  • A gradual drop in grades and academic performance or an inability to complete tasks
  • Lack of concentration

In severe cases of depression, students may struggle with:

  • Expressing thoughts of death or suicide
  • Engaging in self-harming behaviours such as drug use, alcohol abuse, and self-injury
  • Severe anxiety
  • Experiencing trauma from a tragic life event

Also Read: 5 Mental Health Tips For School Leaders

How can teachers help students who are experiencing depression?

1.  Identifying the core problem

Depression can be challenging to recognize, as it manifests in different ways. Teachers must be observant of symptoms such as apathy, emotionlessness, zoning out, fatigue, lack of attention, self-injury, and in severe cases, suicidal thoughts.

Observation can confirm these symptoms of depression in students, which can lead to negative effects such as withdrawing from activities, forgetting homework, slow work, mood swings, and making pessimistic comments. Undiagnosed depression can also impact students’ grades.

The first step a teacher should take on noticing these symptoms in a student is to talk to them separately. Teachers should create a safe space for the student to express their concerns.

2. Supporting classroom success

Depression in students can impact the classroom’s overall environment. Teachers need to engage with students who are showing signs of sadness and fatigue by:

  • Asking the student about their situation and being more understanding about their absence from the classroom
  • Providing personal notes about classroom lessons
  • Giving shorter assignments
  • Regularly checking in on the student to understand their status

Depression can affect a student’s focus, leading to a decline in their performance. In such cases, students may need extra help from their peers and teachers. Teachers can offer support by inviting the student to their office hours and guiding them with their homework. External support can ease the burden on the student.

Furthermore, students may feel demotivated while performing ordinary tasks. Teachers should offer motivation by saying:

  • “It’s okay if the task takes a little more time; don’t panic.”
  • “Mistakes happen, don’t worry about them.”
  • “Don’t let a less than perfect score bring you down. Keep working hard.”
  • “Don’t compare yourself with others; focus on yourself.”

3. Supporting depression recovery

Develop a Relationship: Every child has someone they feel safe with. Teachers must work on communicating with their students by encouraging them to talk and share their thoughts. Teachers can recommend students to other adults, such as counsellors, physical education teachers, or others with whom they can form connections.

Validate their feelings: Students want to be heard, and they need someone who listens to them. They require the feeling of being cared for by someone so that they can open up about their deepest worries. 

Teachers can follow these conversations:

“Don’t worry. It’s okay to be sad.”

“I understand the difficulties you’re facing.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being angry.”

Social interaction: It is common for depressed students to stop interacting or socializing with their peers. They isolate themselves and stop communicating. Teachers can form a group of students where needy students feel comfortable communicating. Suggest the student join a club or pursue a hobby in school.

Reality checks: Depressed students often have a distorted sense of reality. They tend to think pessimistically, such as “nobody likes me,” “I am stupid,” “I am not worthy,” etc. When teachers hear such thoughts, they should follow these:

  • “You are not a bad student. Bad students don’t work hard, but I have seen you working hard. That makes you a good student.”
  • “Your grades do not make you stupid. You are very good at extracurricular activities, which are part of your achievements.”

Other recommendations:

  • Teachers should use words of encouragement while interacting with students to motivate them to do better. It makes the student feel that teachers are acknowledging their work.
  • Suggest coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety, such as exercising, yoga, practicing hobbies, and writing journals. Encourage the students to try something that distracts them from destructive thoughts

4. Getting help from concerned adults

Parents are the first people teachers should contact after thoroughly observing a student. Teachers should talk to parents and discuss the details of the problems faced by their children. Dos and Don’ts should be explained to parents regarding depression and how to deal with it at home.

Students can get help from a counselor in school to discuss their worries. Many schools don’t have professional counselors, so students can contact senior teachers or principals to discuss their issues. There are other issues teachers alone cannot handle, and they should approach experienced senior teachers for suggestions.

Some of us have experienced dealing with depression at some point. Let us pledge that we give our future generations an environment and support system where students can easily share their feelings and get solutions to their problems.

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