For adolescents, the boost in hormones during puberty—added to the stress of getting good grades and fitting in socially—can cause drastic emotional highs and lows. This is healthy and normal, but for some, those lows become a constant. A teen may be suffering from depression if they exhibit some or all the symptoms below on a daily basis for two weeks or longer:
- Severe irritability and anger
- Sadness or frequent crying
- Worsening grades and lack of motivation
- Changes in eating patterns, along with weight gain or loss
- Lack of energy and fatigue, even after school and on weekends
- Withdrawal from social activities, clubs, and friends
- Poor sleeping habits
- New or worsening physical issues, such as digestive problems, headaches, or muscle pain
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm (if a student has mentioned feeling suicidal or physically harming themselves, seek immediate help from a mental health professional). Get help now by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
Depression is a medical disorder—it’s not something that the person can control.
“Science does not yet fully understand the chemical and nerve-cell connection abnormalities that underlie depression,” says Dr. Alan J. Gelenberg, professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of Arizona. “Fortunately, people today who suffer from depression can find relief and often fully recover.”
Here’s what you can do to help students dealing with depression:
- Offer free and accessible counseling services for students.
- Establish check-ins between students and their dedicated counselors every semester or regularly throughout the year.
- Create a clear set of staff protocols to ensure any concerns about students that have been reported to teachers and coaches are flagged to the counseling department.
- Establish a method for students to anonymously alert counseling staff if they’re worried about a peer, such as a tip line or app. Take these alerts seriously and follow up.
- Be a resource for students concerned about friends by offering advice from counseling staff on how to best support them.
- Have a protocol in place to follow up with students who have reported mental health issues over time.
- Provide resources for parents on how to find private mental health professionals in your community.
- Offer programs and clubs, like yoga and meditation, designed to promote mental health.