Depression is a disease that afflicts the human psyche in such a way that the afflicted tend to act and react abnormally toward others and themselves. Adolescent depression is greatly under diagnosed, and leads to serious difficulties in school, and personal adjustment. The reason why depression is often overlooked in children is because children are not always able to express how they feel. Therefore, teachers should be trained in dealing with depressed youths, and to advise the parents of the child to seek professional treatment.
School is the place where children spend most of their waking hours learning, socializing, and growing. A child needs to be mentally healthy in order to learn properly, and sometimes problems arise at home, with friends, or with themselves. These problems need to be noticed, and talked about. Teachers have to pay attention to adolescents’ behavioral patterns, and work with the child on a one to one basis. The child can then open up and talk freely with the teacher about anything that is on their mind.
Learning disabilities or conduct disorder can put a child in greater risk of depression. Therefore, treating one problem and ignoring the other will not help the child overcome their difficulties (Fassler 63). Family must also play a major role in helping their depressed adolescent. Until the last decade, the commonly held view has been that depression affected persons in their middle years, and did not occur in childhood or adolescence. A lot has changed in the past decade. Due to systematic followup studies of children under treatment, and depressed parents, the onset of depression occurs during adolescence, and must be treated during adolescence (Weissman 210).
Depression has a wide range of symptoms, from being sad or mad to withdrawal from others, or lashing out at others. Symptoms of youth depression are often masked. Instead of expressing sadness, teenagers may express boredom and irritability, or may choose to engage in risky behaviors. Other emotional problems make it hard to recognize depression in a child, but usually overlap with depression. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), is a neurochemical problem which makes it difficult for a child to pay attention or focus. These children are very fidgety, have trouble sitting still, and may interrupt others. New research suggests that out of 1,700 adolescents with this disorder, 16 percent have an accompanying eye disorder that makes focusing on nearby targets difficult. Children with ADHD are three times more likely to develop this insufficiency than others (Dixit 18). A depressed child may also have a conduct disorder, in which the child consistently violates rules that may be inappropriate for his or her age. Symptoms for this include bullying, stealing, lying, and being consistently disobedient (Fassler 66). Anxiety disorders affect adolescents as well as adults. The disorder may stop a child from participating in daily activities, and leave them feeling worried, withdrawn, and even restless. These children display overly clingy or needy behavior. Depression and learning disabilities have a strong link to each other. If the learning problem is not accurately detected, it snowballs up, and these negative experiences lead to emotional problems for the child thus, depression (Fassler 72). For example, if a child is having trouble learning grammar in elementary school and does not get any help, then later on in high school, the child may have trouble writing essays. Other underlying symptoms of depression are eating disorders, hyperactivity, and substance abuse. That is why teachers need to be able to identify and consult with the child and parents as soon as they notice a problem. For children, adolescents, and young adults with learning disabilities school can be an unpleasant and highly frustrating environment. It is believed that continuous stimulation of a genetically underdeveloped area of the cerebral hemisphere makes that area surrounding the cerebral cortex work less well (Fassler 125). For example, language impaired and dyslexic children (left hemisphere learning disability) often become moody, irritable, and angry when asked to speak, recall words, or read. Poor spellers (left hemisphere learning disability), practicing spelling for the spelling test, become increasingly dysphoric, anxious, and irritable as the school year progresses. The repeated attempts to preform language functions by these children stimulates poorly functioning in the left cerebral hemisphere which leads to dysfunction of the opposite right hemisphere areas which results in depressive symptoms (Fassler 125). These examples represent the interaction between environmental stress and cerebral dysfunction. Right hemisphere learning/ communication disorders are characterized by difficulties with social communication including social discomfort, dysprosody (difficulties understanding the gestures or speech tones of others), ordering problems (difficulties with sequencing, timing, and context), motor and social dyspraxias (clumsiness), Young people with right hemisphere learning communication disorders, during adolescence and adulthood, are at high risk for major depressive disorder often exacerbated by the inappropriate stress promoted by education directed at their communication difficulties.
In many communities, the only kids who can access mental health services are those who are deeply disturbed. Therefore, kids are more likely to talk to a school-based counselor because it is cheaper, it can be anonymous, and it is right there for a child to take advantage of (Koch 595). These school based programs also give schools less expensive and more immediate options for dealing with disruptive kids. Instead of punishing a child with detention, teachers can send the adolescent to an on site clinic to talk to someone. The best hope to prevent depression is to teach resilience training in schools. This will teach kids to be better able to handle disappointments and frustration (Koch 601). Through resilience, children will feel less overwhelmed, less stressed, and less worried about daily disturbances. When educators refer to a school curriculum, they have compact, consciously planned course objectives in mind. Their methods of organization are scientific, and focus on the lesson, not on the difference in children’s learning patterns. In contrast, students experience an “unwritten curriculum” characterized by informality, and lack of conscious planning (Wren 595). Students with learning disorders who are thriving to achieve success, but may need a little help along the way, may feel that this compact curriculum is too fast paced for them. Teachers and administrators often underestimate the
importance of the dynamics of human interactions when conducting organizational behaviors. Educators need to be aware of the symbolic aspects of the school environment, as well as adolescents’ and teachers’ perceptions of how to learn, and how to teach. Greater understanding of the hidden curriculum will help them to achieve the goal of providing effective learning skills for students.
Teachers are a key factor in helping children out. They can model appropriate behavior, keep communication open and warm, and offer acceptance to those students who may seem “odd” because of their gift. They can act as mentors, and share insights from developmental specialists. In addition, they can be alert to the warning signs of depression, and take remedial action. No student should have to stuggle alone. A team
approach involving caring adults can effectively address the existential dread of today’s adolescent (Wren 594). Family dynamics also contribute to depression in a child, such as physical or emotional abuse, substance abuse, criticism, idealizing, not enough reaction to the child’s actions, and depressed parents themselves. Along with teachers, parents have to contribute in helping their child overcome their deep, repressed thoughts. Effective parental behaviors include helping children with homework, encouraging them to study, offering guidance on educational decisions, and having contact with school teachers (Carter 41). Recent studies have shown that parent- child conversations concerning school related topics contribute to educational success (Carter 33). Both parents and teachers have to pay attention and recognize the thoughts that automatically cross the child’s mind when they feel low, evaluate these thoughts and acknowledge that they may not accurately reflect reality, and generate more accurate explanations to replace less accurate thoughts. This will give the child a better understanding of what they are going through, and how to fix the problem. Of course all children will experience some stressful situations, transitions, and losses while growing up. No one can prevent these events from happening, but what parents can do to protect their children from depression is to raise them to be resilient. Resilient children are able to recover readily from disappointments, frustrations, or other misfortunes. When parenting for resiliency, the parent(s) become the mediator, shaper, and interpreter of their child’s experiences by responding to their kids in positive, affirming ways to help them create the foundation for a flexible and dynamic coping style that will let them bounce back from life’s dilemmas and move on happily and productively. Good communication between adolescents’ and parents’ is the key factor to the prevention of depression later on in a child’s life. Children need to be assured that they can talk openly about anything at all with their parents, and know that they can turn for help whenever they feel they need it. Good communication between kids and parents also prevents children from feeling that they have to keep troubling emotions bottled up inside which can make a child feel overwhelmed, and vulnerable to depression. When kids know that they can talk about their problems and feelings, they have a great coping tool at their disposal. They can come for support for a problem that they simply do not know how to handle. Without this coping tool, children are much more vulnerable to sadness, self defeat, and isolation, which will put them in a depressed state. Most parents love their children so much that they want to protect them from all of life’s pain, and keep them happy and safe forever. Yet life is not perfect, so this type of protection will raise emotionally fragile children. Allowing children to experience frustrations, upsets, ad disappointments gives them important practice in coping with life’s may challenges, and helps children build a healthy, natural resistance to emotional difficulties like depression.
The Food and Drug Administration is urging drug companies to do more research on the impact of antidepressants on children. If proven safe, more children can get help with psychiatric drugs (Koch 615). Currently, no medications are approved by the Food and Drug administration to treat depression in patients under the age of eighteen. Despite the lack of FDA approval, an increasing number of psychiatrists, and other
physicians are prescribing Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and other antidepressants to children diagnosed with moderate to severe chronic depression (Koch 616). Antidepressants work by allowing certain neurotransmitters to accumulate in the central nervous system. They are given to elevate mood, counter suicidal thoughts, and increase the effectiveness of psychotherapy (Weissman 195). Prescribing antidepressants to the young raises thorny issues. There is not an objective test for depression, forcing parents and physicians to decide whether a child is clinically depressed or simply riding the roller coaster emotions of growing up. Critics worry about aggressive marketing tactics and consequent overuse. Antidepressants often are used daily for many years, yet researchers haven’t conducted long term studies to see how the chemicals affect still growing bodies. Within ten years, doctors are reaching for the ability to pinpoint the causes of distress, make treatments more specific, hopefully to the point of where the first episode of depression in kids can be pointed out and treated (Koch 608). Until we have more research to prove the safeness of antidepressants among growing children, and more ideas of how our brain actually works, the best we as a society can do is educate our children through resilliance to help depressed kids the best way we can.
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