Thursday, November 11, 2010

How Does Depression Affect Your Students?

You may have noticed one or two students in your classes who just don't seem all that interested in your teaching. This might surprise you, right? After all, you're probably a very dedicated teacher: you put effort into your class plans, you respond to your students' work, you try to treat everyone well. But for some reason, there are always a few students who just don't react as you would expect. Naturally, this is frustrating, and it may be tempting to think poorly of these students or to see their lack of interest as evidence of a bad attitude. However, check these initial thoughts before you talk to the students. There's a chance your student could be dealing with depression. Below I've tried to describe what they might be experiencing so you'll be better able to empathize with them during your next class.

Physical Exhaustion

Students who are depressed often feel physically exhausted. They might have trouble sleeping at home. They might lose their appetite. They tend to avoid physical exercise. Due to this exhaustion, they may struggle to stay awake in your classroom no matter how exciting the activities are for the day. Students who do sleep well might still be tired during school. This is part of the physical toll that depression takes upon those who suffer. Naturally, this physical exhaustion can consume a student's ability to concentrate in class, thus harming his or her learning process.

Mental Anguish

Along with the physical exhaustion, depressed students can suffer from mental anguish. Feelings of low-self esteem, a desperate sense that nothing matters, and a loss of interest in daily activities can greatly hamper a student's education. If his or her thoughts are devoted to investigating the anxiety he or she feels, then it will be harder for that student to apply his or her energy to the day's lesson.

Social Problems

Because students who are depressed often have issues regarding self-esteem, they tend to avoid social interaction or they might interact awkwardly with their peers and their teachers. Social anxiety adds to their reluctance to participate in class. Imagine feeling depressed and being called on to answer a question in class. Not only could this challenge your low self-confidence, it also seemingly exposes it for all to see. The threat of judgment greatly affects a depressed student's social presence, causing him or her to withdraw as much as possible. These students might relegate themselves to a corner of your classroom.

Of course, every one of your students is an individual, so depression will manifest itself differently in each student. The above write up is only meant as a tentative guide to allow you to see how depression could affect your students. If you do believe one of your students is in fact depressed, contact your school's counseling center or someone who is professionally able to handle the problem. But remember that although you may not be qualified to help in serious instances, you are the first line of defense in protecting the student from danger.

This guest post is contributed by Kitty Holman, who writes on the topics of nursing schools. She welcomes your comments at