By Lani deGuia, Guest Blogger and Curriki Member
Students are getting sadder and more anxious. What can teachers do to help?
Throughout generations, adolescence has been characterized as a period in life full of angst, confusion, and emotional instability. The issues that accompany growing into an adult and developing one’s own identify are not new.
However, the latest research shows that there is a significant increase in depression amongst teens in the U.S. Depression — characterized as significant and pervasive feelings of sadness associated with suicidal thoughts and interfere with the ability to concentrate or participate in normal activities – has jumped to 20% in the last dozen years. Research shows that 11 % of youth (age 12-17) suffered from at least one major depressive episode in 2017, up from 8.7% in 2005.
Many schools are grappling with the challenge of addressing this rise in mental health and social-emotional needs among students. Moreover, the inclusion of social-emotional learning in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act puts it at the forefront in the approach education for all schools in the U.S.
Here are resources to help get your classroom and school headed in the right direction for all K-12 students.
Increase Social-Emotional Literacy
A primary approach for teaching students to better manage their anxiety or depression is to empower them with knowledge of social, emotional, and character concepts. Schools may want to start off with a formal social-emotional literacy curriculum such as this one from Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District. This curriculum includes introductory concepts to help new freshman make the most and succeed throughout high school, bullying, and cyberbullying.
Defining multiple emotions is a good foundation for social-emotional learning. This chart shows the different physical traits that can manifest from different emotions. This handout is perfect for parents and teachers of younger students to help them understand and deal with their emotions.
Older students can use the Half of Us website to find supportive resources when they experience anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, and other mental health conditions. The National Institute of Mental Health offers research and resources to help parents and educators understand and approach teen depression.
Teacher training is also essential. This presentation covers fundamentals and recommendations for including the depressed student. An accompaniment to the presentation is this helpful list of what NOT to say to a depressed student.
Teach Resiliency and Expect Empathy
Increasing each student’s ability to withstand perceived pitfalls and stress is a vital skill for parents and educators. The handbook Kids Can Cope: Parenting Resilient Children At Home and At School offers multiple strategies to empower students to better manage life’s ups and downs.
Educators can also focus on increasing all students’ inclusion, acceptance, and understanding of each other’s differences. This list includes books and websites with information and strategies for integrating empathy in the classroom. NBC’s Maria Shriver Project highlights the work of Bob Sornson in helping kids develop empathy in the home. A second resource from Sornson includes short readings on empathy, self-regulation, and grit.
Awareness and education is the first step in being able to effectively reach those students who need help. Communicate with all students and ensure you have a grasp of their feelings, fears, and anxieties.
Lani deGuia is a Norfolk, VA-based Educational Consultant with experience writing and developing curriculum and managing school technology.