By: Lindsay Richards

What is Depression?

Depression is the most common mental illness amongst high school students, and it is a severe psychological condition that needs to be taken seriously (Cash, 2003). In 2003, Cash recognised that there are many symptoms that are associated with this illness, and they can often be confused with regular teenage behaviour. These symptoms include but are not limited to the following: sadness, changes in appetite, feelings of worthlessness, and changes in quantity or quality of sleep (Hurst, 2004). In students, this can be seen in various ways such as: failing grades, overachievers, and perfectionists (Hurst, 2004). If a student strives for perfection and does not meet their own high demands, then it is likely that they will become discouraged and unhappy with themselves which may lead to low self-esteem (Ye, 2008).


Depression is defined as “a persistent or irritable mood; “anhedonia” is a loss of the ability to experience pleasure in nearly all activities,” (Cash, 2003). This means that the adolescent is no longer able to enjoy the pastimes they he or she enjoyed when well.



-   Approximately twenty percent of the student body has depression (Hurst, 2004)

-   Teenagers with major depression have a seven percent risk of suicide before young adulthood, and ninety percent of suicides are caused from psychiatric disorders (Jane, 2003)

-   In 2002, 1 in 5 children in the USA suffered from a mental condition (Hurst, 2004)


The Importance of Acknowledging Depression in the Teaching Profession

As teachers, it is important that we are able to identify when a student may be at risk for developing mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety. If a student is acting differently than before, or appears to be sad for a period of longer than two weeks, this student is at risk (Cash, 2003). The signs to look for include changes in academic attitude, lack of focus, skipping class, lack of participation, and trouble among peer groups (Cash, 2003). It is important to know that interaction among peers needs to be looked at in two ways: creating of friendships, and termination of friendships (Chan, 2009). Both of these cases need to be considered because they both indicate friendship instability, and adolescents should be able to have stability in their friendships, and relationships in general (Chan, 2009).

Depression is generally seen through the public eye as a weakness, and it is crucial that we remove this stigma attached to the word ‘depression.’ The best way we can do this is to create a positive and caring environment for all students in the classroom. It is our job to encourage students to talk openly about their feelings with people they trust so that they do not feel isolated (Cash, 2003).

It is important to take time to teach students a very important concept. Advice I received from a nurse was that if you can control your breathing, you can control your emotions. This is so simple, yet it is so imperative. When students feel apprehensive when they have to face a difficult situation, all they have to do is breathe slowly and controlled, so that they will be able to relax, and feel at ease.


Cash, R. (2003, November). When Depression Brings Teens Down. Education Digest, 69(3), 35-42. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.

Chan, A, & Poulin, F. (2009). Monthly instability in early adolescent friendship networks and depressive symptoms. Social development, 18(1), 1.

Hurst, M. (2004, February 11). Lifelong Battle. Education Week, 23(22), 22-25. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.

Jane Hanvey Phillips,  Jacqueline Corcoran,  Connie Grossman. (2003). Implementing a cognitive-behavioral curriculum for adolescents with depression in the school setting. Children & Schools, 25(3), 147.  Retrieved March 15, 2009, from ProQuest Nursing & Allied Health Source database. (Document ID: 386188991).

Ye, H., Rice, K., & Storch, E. (2008, December). Perfectionism and Peer Relations Among Children with Obsessive-compulsive Disorder. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 39(4), 415-426. Retrieved March 15, 2009, doi:10.1007/s10578-008-0098-5