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Teachers Reveal How They Help Students Struggling With Depression

You are not alone.

Depression, anxiety, suicide are real and present dangers for anyone at anytime at any age. So many children, pre-teens and teens are coping poorly with their emotional well being. And it's really difficult for any of us to reach out and ask for help. Sometimes a vigilant and caring teacher can become a savior just by making eye contact and listening. They spend the most time with kids on a daily basis. They know what they are seeing.

Redditor u/sgtdogface wanted to hear from teachers on some pointers when trying to assist a student with some emotional issues by asking.... Teachers of Reddit, when can you tell if a student is going through depression or self-loathing? If so, what do you try to do to help?


The Substitute....

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In a year of substituting, the biggest thing Ive learned is this:

If a student doesn't seem right. They aren't. If you ever think to yourself, "Huh, thats a strange thing to say?" "Huh, thats not normal for that age group?"

Its because it isn't. My first week a 5th grade boy said to me, "You look like my stepdad (Im a giant burly, bearded man), but you don't seem mean like him. Are you going to stick around?"

My heart BROKE. I excused myself and had the special ed aid look over my class while I went directly to the counselors. AlphaIOmega

Just Being Human.... 

I used to work in schools and I have to say that I always saw the kids I knew needed help as often as I could. They were the kids who didn't have supplies, didn't turn in work, had unreachable parents, were quiet, got bullied etc.... essentially not thriving. All kinds of things can impact a kid's mental heath. I would go out of my way to find them before and after school, show a specific interest in their day and always try to bring their mood up. I also made it clear that I was around and they could come to me if needed. I was (i think) pretty influential in removing a child from a very very difficult home life when I was subpoenaed. The guardian ad litem had told me that the child provided my name as his best friend :'). Basically: show you care and treat kids like humans. tacobellquesaritos

Watch Behavior.... 

Any change in behavior. Usually personal hygiene, attendance, level of interaction. But honestly, as a once extremely suicidal grad student, it was surprising how little people noticed. I showed up for work for barely 4-5 hours, I was quite a bit withdrawn, but I also over-compensated : sometimes I'd make an effort to dress nicely, be more cheerful because I didn't want any one to see what was really going on. I'd hang around till almost midnight to make up for lost hours. Depressed behavior is often contradictory. There's no one way to predict - some people withdraw, some people throw themselves into things further in an effort to distract. You are seeing them for a few hours a day, it is hard to tell what's going in their life. That's why any change from baseline is important doesn't matter which direction it moves in. For me, it didn't end well. I'm still alive and I suppose that's good. Startiblastfast

Mrs. G the Superhero! 

Not a teacher, but I was a student going through this. I was in a small town with virtually no mental health resources. I was lucky enough to have a few teachers see what I was going through, and cut me a bit of slack after watching me go through DHR battles with heavy abuse at home. I went from being a model student with straight A's to someone who showed up when I wanted with no work to turn in.

One teacher in particular started inviting me to dinner, and she requested me as her student aide during my free periods. She would ask me how my home life was, and if things were bad she'd plan sleep overs with her daughter who I'd become close friends with. She made me feel like I was welcome in at least one spot in my life. She and her daughter made me feel loved when I wasn't at home. She probably saved my life in high school.

Thanks Mrs. G. raviolibabie

Make a Connection....

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It's always hard to know, so the best thing you can do is let them know you care. If you start with a casual 1-on-1 connection and make it known that you'd like to listen, you can sometimes save a life. NickVerrall

The Open Door.... 

You can tell by changes in attitudes, participation, and grades. These aren't the only indicators, but they are the ones I key off of for my students.

All you can do is make yourself available. There are certain things we are required to report, but all of my students know that if they are having an issue, my door is open, and confidential unless it is a mandatory reporting issue. I am up front with them that there are some things I have to pass along because I don't want to betray their trust.

When students do come to me with concerns, I let them talk. A lot of the time, there isn't much I can actually do, other than be a sounding board for them. I'll make suggestions after they are done if I think they would benefit from speaking to a counselor or give advise if they want it.

I always ask for non reporting issues if they would like me to inform their other teachers so they know what is going on, and if they say no it stops with me. If they say yes, it is usually because they are not comfortable bringing it up themselves. Even if students don't say anything, as a group we let each other know if we notice something is off. Because if they don't talk to me, they might talk to another teacher. Prathin

Nothing is Fine....

This will probably get buried, but I was actually dealing with this today. I have had a freshman (14-15 years old) in my class all year that is super quiet and withdrawn most of the time, but occasionally will contribute the most insightful, well-thought-out, knowledgeable responses in class. He clearly understands the content, but spends 3/4 of the class sleeping or tuning out.

Early on, I noticed that he was clearly bright but not engaging, so I continued to check in with him. He mostly stayed withdrawn, and when I asked him what was going on, he would just shrug. I reached out to home and received no response, and continued checking in with him one on one getting the same shrug.

This past week were parent teacher conferences, and he came in by himself (which a lot of kids end up doing due to parent work schedules). We chatted again, and when I asked him how he was doing, he said, "Well...you remember what it was like to be 15," which was the most detailed response I had gotten from him. I told him I had and shared that I had gone through some pretty severed anxiety and depression and didn't receive help until my 20s, and that I wish I had reached out sooner. I then shared with him that we have counseling services on our campus and asked if he wanted me to make an appointment for him, and he said ok, which honestly feels like a huge victory.

I try to get to know each of my kids, and the biggest way I do that is simply by asking them how they are doing each day. May simply respond with, "fine," but occasionally they will offer something more vulnerable. I guess to really respond to your question, I look for what I know and remember, and I try to support them the best I can. princess_mediocrity

The "At Risk." 

It's often hard to tell, and even when we suspect something, it's hard to do anything that will actually help. This semester I see 126 different students over the course of a typical day. As much as I'd like to, it's simply not possible for me to get to know all of my students on anything close to a personal level. I can't be on the lookout for changes in students' behavior if I don't know what their normal behavior is. My school identifies certain students at being "at risk," based on home life, grades, etc., and assigns each teacher two of those students to mentor. I try to check in regularly with my mentees, as well as any student who seems to be acting differently. Of course, depression doesn't just strike the type of person my school labels "at risk."

Even if I notice that something seems off about a student (quiet when they're usually loud, loud when they're usually quiet, avoiding usual friends, unusual amount of missing work, etc), there isn't always much I can do. Depressed people don't want others to know they are depressed. My typical strategy is to quietly pull the student aside and just ask how they are doing. I've gotten everything from "Great! No problems here!" to "My step dad called me a worthless piece of crap this morning, and my ex-girlfriend is pregnant but she isn't sure if it's mine, and I'm failing four classes so I'm afraid I won't graduate, and I think you're about to send me to the principal because I have chewing tobacco in my mouth." If nothing else I try to be a listening ear.

Many of my students don't really have that. The counselors at my school are actually pretty good at helping struggling kids, so if someone needs to talk but doesn't want to talk to me I put them in touch with their counselor.

If a student says they are fine, but I think they might be struggling with depression or something related, I'll reach out to their other teachers, their coaches, and the school counselor to relay my concerns. We'll keep a close eye on the student, but we can't do much else without anything concrete. I've reached out to parents before if I have serious concerns. dromio05

A Group Effort....

I'm not a teacher, but in my senior year of high school, I went through a very rough patch towards the end. I missed 80+ days of school and barely graduated.

At the time I had a phenomenal creative writing teacher. She noticed the work I turned in, as well as my plummeting attendance to class, and when the final project was assigned (which I was not there for) she confronted my group and said to them "If space-reindeer doesn't do her part, she's going to fail my class, which she needs to graduate. You all need to grow up and reach out a hand to your classmate in need."

Each of my group members would individually text me to remind me to complete my project work on time. I know their grades were dependent on it too, but the support they gave me really helped lift me up and actually try to finish strong. I don't think I would have passed that class without them or without that teacher. space-reindeer

You're not a Miracle Worker....

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We were talking about self harm and suicide in class and this kid raises his arm and puts it down just as quickly. I call on him and he just kinda shrugged it off and said nothing as wrong. Later in the semester I had a conference with this kids parents and the dad is ripping the kid for getting mostly A's and a B. I mean above the normal you can do better thing most parents do when they are disappointed. It still haunts me that I didn't get the kid to open up to me and ask what's truly wrong in his life. I think about it daily and feel like a horrible person for not doing more to help this student. firedonmydayoff

REDDIT

If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression help is a phone call away.... National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255

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