Aiding Middle School Students Through Depression

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A middle school teacher may have as many as three students in a class of 30 who have mild to serious depression, with most of them likely to be girls.

Depression symptoms among this group of students are often ignored or regarded as normal behavior in coping with adolescent troubles. But depression affects 2 percent of school-age children, and the likelihood of developing depression increases once a child reaches puberty, which often begins in middle school.

The Teacher's Role

Although adolescents may need counseling or therapy to properly treat their depression, teachers can still play an important part in aiding students. Here are some key strategies teachers can implement in the classroom in order to further assist students with depression.

  • Develop a relationship. A teacher can approach a student and try to develop an open communication relationship. Often times, depressed students are seeking someone to talk to, although it might not seem that way all the time.
  • Use positive approaches. Do not use punishment, disparagement or other negative techniques when a student does poorly on an assignment or behaves badly in class. These approaches can reinforce a depressed student’s feelings of incompetence, loneliness or low self-esteem.
  • Remember that these students do not choose to be depressed. Students want to be happy and feel good about themselves but can lack the guidance and personal resources (such as high self-esteem and confidence) to do their best work. It is important to be patient with students. They want to feel better and do well, and with extra support and care, they can.
  • Consider making adjustments or accommodations in assignments or tasks. Depressed students can benefit from setting small goals that they feel are achievable and realistic. By reaching these goals, students can feel accomplished and more confident about themselves. Teachers can aid students by breaking assignments into smaller pieces, offering extra help or giving students more time to understand lessons.
  • Seek help from support personnel. Teachers can consult with their school psychologist or counselor to get suggestions on what to do for specific students. Each student is different and requires individual planning.

Sources: American Family Physician, National Association of School Psychologists

 
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