Approaching students who show warning signals without risk of invasion of privacy
We researched and gathered data to support the hypothesis that detecting warning signs and approaching the student is beneficial for the student as well as the community; however, one can’t deny the risks and controversy associated with this issue. Research provided will continue to support the hypothesis while refuting a major boundary that stops many from approaching students who may be depressed. Perhaps the biggest counterpoint is the ethical perspective: the possibility of insulting the student.
When approaching high school students who show warning signs of depression, there may be several causes for those particular warning signs: a student may be in an argument with someone or just may not be having a good day. With or without the context of the goal(preventing depression), approaching the student may be assumed as invasion of privacy. In a previously mentioned article called “Why Don’t We Treat Mental Illness Like We Do Physical Illness?” by the Choices PsychoTherapy Team, we see that “from the outside, a person can look completely normal.” Depression is associated with a negative stigma, causing people who suffer from it to hide the illness. A warning signal may be detected, and when acted upon, the student can be overwhelmed. As a result, approaching a student showing warning signs of depression may be seen as an insult. Teaching how to detect warning signs may be the difference in looking “normal” and seeing a “hidden” warning sign. While the intent of the approach might be clear, we must also consider the most careful but effective method to help the student.
In the perspective of an authority figure, the students’ safety is top priority. This responsibility is generally more applied to physical wellness, but deserves to also be applied to mental wellness. The negative stigma of depression causes those who struggle to refuse to acknowledge the possibility of the mental illness, leading the condition to worsen. This puts the student at risk of suicide. However, when an authority figure begins to question whether or not warning signs are detected, the fear of insulting the student and causing a lawsuit overrides the motivation to help the student. But is it really worth risking a student’s life under your responsibility for not wanting to offend the student? Choosing not to approach the student to avoid the risk of invading his/her personal life may be much worse than making an effort to help one who may desperately need it. More often than not, many would rather stay quiet in fear of misjudging what one may think is a warning signal. Specifically for this reason there would need to be a learning process to detect these warning signs. We must take action to those who show warning signs rather than wait for the mental illness to develop and then treat it. An appropriate setting for learning these warning signs is in high school, with a mental health course and psychologists and professionals nearby if they are needed.
High school, along with any other educational institution is a learning environment. It is mandated and designed to educate students and lead them to a hopeful career. This is perhaps the perfect time and place to detect warning signals for depression, as students can be educated to help others and possibly save lives. In high school, many students begin to think about their future; it is essential to keep the school environment as positive as it can be in hopes of a healthy future. As one can see in “A Whole-School Approach Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing” by Johanna Wyn, Helen Cahill, Roger Holdsworth, Louise Rowling, and Shirley Carson, “Promoting the mental health and wellbeing of all young people is a vital part of the core business of teachers by creating a supportive school environment that is conducive to learning.” A student’s academic performance is greatly affected by mental health. A welcoming school environment will discourage judgement and negative stigma that is associated with depression. As a result, approaching students who show warning signals would be more accepted as an offer for help rather than a personal invasion or insult.
In addition, scientific evidence may support the need for detecting and responding to warning signals. There is a link between depression and genetics, suggesting that we cannot fully get rid of this mental illness. In the article “Genetics and Genomics of Depression” by Pavel Hamet and Johanne Tremblay, depression is “subject to a genetically overlapping and distinct genetic influence.” One can come to the disappointing conclusion that depression will always be present, yet that does not mean we can’t lower the rate as much as possible. This knowledge can be taken advantage of by teaching students and teachers to respond appropriately when encountering a friend, family member or peer with this mental illness.
We learn that an ethical dilemma with approaching students who may be depressed prevents many from offering help. There is a fear that the student would feel violated in a community where he/she should be respected. However, there are ways to respond to warning signs of depression without risking an insult. Establishing a respectful relationship and making clear points when teaching to detect and act on warning signals will demonstrate a nonthreatening intent to guide a student to professional help. The fact that depression can be passed onto future generations shows that more attention and efforts to prevent this mental illness is required. With the help of parents, teachers, psychologists and peers, the negative stigma of depression would dissipate, allowing a more comfortable access to reliable resources for those with depression. In time we would see less and less cases of depression and suicide.
Team, Choices Psychotherapy. “Why Don’t We Treat Mental Illness like We Do Physical Illness?” Choices Psychotherapy, 19 Nov. 2019.
Hamet, P., & Tremblay, J. (2005). Genetics and genomics of depression. Metabolism, 54(5), 10–15.
Wyn, J., Cahill, H., Holdsworth, R., Rowling, L., & Carson, S. (2000). MindMatters, a Whole-School Approach Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 34(4), 594–601. doi: 10.1080/j.1440-1614.2000.00748.x