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Coping With Depression at School


Earlier today we posted an article by Cait Irwin about art and expression. In Irwin’s book, (co-written by Dwight Evans, M.D. and Linda Wasmer Andrews), Monochrome Days, she shares her experiences as a young women suffering from depression and her road to recovery. The book also explains what is currently known about depression in adolescents, demystifying what is often a terrifying time. Below is some advice about coping with depression at school.

School was a huge hurdle for me, as it is for many students with depression. If you’re a full-time student, you spend more time at school than anywhere else but home. School is the place not only where you learn, but also where you connect with friends and get involved in after-school activities. When you have trouble coping, the effects can ripple throughout your whole life.

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to do your best academically when your brain is clouded with depression. You may find that it’s much harder than usual to pay attention, think clearly, solve problems, and recall information. You also may lose your motivation to study and do homework. Suddenly, making good grades and getting into your dream college may seem like hopeless causes or pointless wastes of time. If you’ve always thought school was important, and suddenly it seems stupid and trivial, that’s a classic example of depression at work.

Working With Your Teachers

Not everyone is as lucky as I was. I attended a small school where most of the teachers knew my family and were eager to help, and I also had the benefit of my own personal teacher at home for a few months. But whatever your situation, there are steps you can take to reduce the academic fallout:

  • – Enlist the support of teachers. Believe it or not, they’re on your side. They want to see you succeed as much as you do, but they can’t help if you don’t communicate about your needs. Ask your parents to request a conference where you, your parents, and your teachers can all sit down and share information. That may sound like the last thing most students would want to do, but in your situation, it can work to your benefit. For one thing, teachers are less likely to view you as a “discipline problem” when they understand that some changes in your behavior are the symptoms of a mental illness. For another thing, this type of meeting is the first step toward accessing additional help from the school.
  • monochromedayscover1.jpgFind creative ways to work around depression. Often, little changes can make a big difference. One of my biggest barriers at school was just making it to class through the crowded hallways. Simply waiting a few minutes until the hall had cleared out helped immensely. Let’s say you think this strategy might help you, too. To avoid being counted tardy every day, it just makes sense to talk to your teachers first, explain how this strategy will help you succeed, and ask for their support. Of course, the specific adjustments you request will depend on your situation. If you’re having trouble getting things done while you adapt to a new medication, you might ask for extra time on an assignment. If you feel sluggish in the morning, you might try to schedule your most demanding classes later in the day.
  • – Explore other options, if necessary. For most students with depression, relatively simple changes made through informal channels will probably be enough. However, if your symptoms are especially severe, you might need more extensive help. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) is the U.S. special education law, which applies to students who have a disability that affects their ability to benefit from general educational services. Some students with mental illness meet the criteria set out by the law. If you think you might need additional services at school, your parent can make a written request for an initial evaluation to determine whether you qualify under IDEA. If you’re eligible, you’ll receive an individualized educational plan, a written educational plan that outlines the special services you need.

Recent Comments

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  2. Lucy, school teacher

    “Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to do your best academically when your brain is clouded with depression. ” – It is difficult to do your best anywhere when you are in a difficult situation… Unfortunately, teachers often don’t even try to understand the students. And many of them are so passionate about their subject that they don’t see anything beyond…

    In any way, the students should know that the worst thing is to bear it on their own. They should ask for support from their school mates and of course teachers. You are absolutely right that teachers want to see their students succeed; and they will try to help if students honestly tell about their problems. A constructive diallog is always helpful.

    Thanks for this post, it outlines so many things to think about!

  3. aimee

    I am 13 and in yr 8 but im not sure if i have depression or not but lately i have been having trouble concentrating at school and been getting lower grades than usual and my teachers dont listen to me
    Do u have any ideas that could help me as i cant tell my parents either as i dont have a great relationship with them either

  4. Amy

    Hi i am struggling with depression and i don’t know what to do, i have researched it and thought about it but nothing calms me down, i have been bullied at school and my parents and family have split up, im in year 9 and i was doing so well with my grades and i’m now failing and im not as ‘smart’ as i was, ive tried talking to family but they dont really listen either that or they dont know what to say.
    please help, thanks.

  5. Jason

    I have been struggling with depression for about 6 months now. It has been so much harder for me to concentrate. I find myself forgetting things easily, and my motivation to do anything is gone. Sometimes I’ll think about getting a really nice job and living life to the fullest and I’ll be happy, then about two minutes later the happiness will fade even if the thought is still in my brain.

  6. Olivia

    I’ve had depression for almost three years now and I’m 13. My grades are going horribly and I find most days I cant even work up enough to go to school. My parents don’t know what to do about it and have their own problems to work through. I’ve been transferred to a new school for their gifted program so I have no one to talk to about it. The teachers and principle all seem to have a bad image of me and every time I go to school it makes my depression worse. I’m isolated and have no one to talk to. I’m on medication but it doesnt seem to be helping my school life. I find it hard to be happy and get suicidal almost every time but my record of absence is already so high and because my parents are both teachers and didnt have many friends growing up they prioritize school over everything else. I’ve searched up ways to cope and none seem for me.

  7. anonymous

    I don’t know what to do anymore

  8. Isaac

    This is probably going to sound very strange and weird. I have been suffering from depression for almost 3 years now. I am 15 and a Freshman in Highschool. Anyways I learned a coping skill a very strange one, I learned it while in a Hospital that “Helps” with your depression. Here is the big reveal… I read about others who have depression and this makes me feel like there are people out there that do understand what I’m going through and when I read my mind wander stop thinking about all negatives.

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