Responding to warning signals of depression
The first step to solving a problem is recognizing its existence. Not only should one just hear about the issue; research must be conducted to analyze and develop an effective solution, followed by implementing the solution to the problem. This process can be applied to mental health awareness. As we occasionally see on social media, there are posts attempting to spread encouragement and positive energy to those reading and going through a difficult time. However, this encouragement alone cannot resolve the frequency and severity of mental illness. Depression, along with many other types of mental illness, is common and has warning signals that are observable. Although measures(such as therapy, social awareness and encouragement) are taken to decrease the rate of depression, another proposal could cause the same effect: approaching those who show warning signs of depression. Perhaps an appropriate setting to approach this issue is a learning environment: high school, the ages between childhood and adulthood. Responding to these warning signals early would result in less depression.
Before analysis begins, it is important to consider the atmosphere of the high school. In order to effectively approach a student who shows warning signs of depression, there must be a respected relationship between the student body and the staff. A positive and welcoming aura in school would drastically increase the effectiveness of this solution. According to “Teachers as Builders of Respectful School Climates,” by Maria D. LaRusso, “schools with positive climates increase students’ attachment to healthy norms of behavior that are promoted and modeled by teachers and other adults.” Research shows a significant relationship between the school climate and a student’s mental health. The importance of the school environment is that a positive and respectful relationship between staff and students allows the student to feel comfortable. After all, students and teachers spend a majority of their day at school. Creating a healthy school community is essential for everyones’ mental health. One can also conclude that the very presence of positive energy may contribute to preventing depression.
By having a mental health professional, teacher or school psychologist approach studens who show warning signs of depression, the social stigma of this mental illness could change and the teenage suicide would decrease. This would be upon the responsibility of authority figures. As previously mentioned, a respected bond between an authority figure and a student has benefits; it allows trust and security to grow from both parties. According to the “Teen Depression and Suicide” article by Keith King and Rebecca Vidourek, “a key component to preventing teen depression and suicide is for professionals, parents/guardians, teachers, other supportive adults (e.g., coaches, religious youth group advisors, after school program leaders), and youth to remain aware of such warning signs and risk factors and to appropriately intervene when necessary.” This statement is not without reason. The condition of the school community has a major impact on a student’s willingness to accept help. As a warning signal for a physical illness would be cared for immediately, adults must also be prepared to detect warning signs for depression and step in to guide the student. Through this solution, we are taking action beyond addressing the issue.
A study conducted by Donna Moilanen and Susan Bradbury analyzes the effect of implementing a program called “A High School Depression and Suicide Prevention Program.” In this study, health educators designed this program to educate students about depression, which was also provided to the teachers and staff. Then, the students went through a depression screening process. With respect to the students, their identities were kept anonymous unless they were comfortable with discussing the results of the screening. Resources such as school counselors, psychologists and mental health professionals were available to contact if needed. Donna and Susan mention that “attempts were made to meet with students identified as being most at risk by virtue of their total score on the depression screening survey.” Those students at most risk were generally in grades 9-11(ages 15-17). After a period of time, another survey was sent to the students who chose to accept help. As a result, a majority of the students were more aware of warning signs of depression as well as a slight decrease in attempted suicide; although it is a slight change, it is progress. Over time we would slowly but surely see a decrease in depressive symptoms. With a similar program being implemented into the high school curriculum and current therapy methods in action, the mental state of our community would greatly improve.
Moilanen and Bradbury’s research method supports the idea that approaching students with information and resources is beneficial for students’ mental health. Not only did the students become more aware of warning signs of depression, an unexpected result has emerged from the study(Moilanen, Bradbury) previously mentioned: “they were more aware of how to help themselves or someone else who is feeling depressed or suicidal”. Their finding suggests that perhaps the students, not just teachers and psychologists, may also detect and help those who show warning signs or are already struggling with depression. This outcome may “cover more ground” in terms of detecting warning signals and reaching out to the student.
It is important to remember that those who are struggling with depression may not have the courage to seek help. Maintaining a positive and respectful school environment can encourage a student to not be afraid to speak out. Implementing a mandatory mental health course in the first 2 years of high school would introduce these warning signs and teach students the severity of depression, as well as effective ways to help, either by guiding them to a psychologist and/or providing moral support. The purpose of the course being mandatory in the first 2 years of one’s high school career is that the student learns about this information and resources at a young age, leading to long lasting effects.
This goal to prevent or lower the rate of depression is not a one-step process. To maximize the efficiency of this approach, there must be a respected relationship within the school. With the help of mental health professionals, teachers, and even students, the change in rate of depression may be an influence to communities outside of the education department.
Moilanen, D., & Bradbury, S. (2002). A High School Depression and Suicide Prevention Program. American Journal of Health Education, 33(3), 148–153.
LaRusso, M., Romer, D., & Selman, R. (2008). Teachers as Builders of Respectful School Climates: Implications for Adolescent Drug Use Norms and Depressive Symptoms in High School. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37(4), 386–398.
King, K., & Vidourek, R. (2012). Teen Depression and Suicide: Effective Prevention and Intervention Strategies. Prevention Researcher, 19(4), 15–17.