It’s the third grading quarter, and like clockwork, I will see grades dip and student stress rise. Students will get in trouble and become sad and overwhelmed. Inevitably, the subject of depression will come up.
Depression is a common mood disorder that causes severe symptoms, affecting how one feels, thinks, and handles daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. It is serious. To be actually diagnosed with depression, one must display symptoms for at least two weeks. While I have seen student sadness increase after Christmas break, more often it’s due to the loss of privileges after poor performance than it is actual depression.
Some students do experience depression, though, and it is incredibly disturbing. The most obvious sign is increased sleeping. I’m not talking about a nap or two extra; I’m talking “coming-home-from-school-and-going-to-sleep-until-the-next-day” sleeping… repeatedly… day after day. If you see this, get your child help immediately.
Slightly less worrisome but still very serious is seasonal depression. Seasonal depression has been described as a lingering melancholy, and it can disrupt a student’s normal behavior. There are some home remedies, like special light therapy boxes that produce pseudo – sun, that can help with some seasonal depression symptoms, but it is best to talk with a doctor.
There is a difference, however, in being sad and being depressed. I’m not sure when the idea that kids were not ever supposed to be sad became popular. From the moment we leave the little toddlers at home while we go to work, we can expect that there will be some sadness! I’m with the philosophers who hold that we cannot know happy unless we know sad. I even fondly think back to watching old movies after high school days so that I could get a good cry out and enjoy the rest of my evening! Your teen needs to know that it’s okay to be sad. Everyone has days when we miss someone or we’re disappointed with our performance or someone has hurt our feelings. We come to a clearer understanding of ourselves on the other side of these circumstances.
If your child or teen is experiencing prolonged sadness accompanied by physical changes, don’t wait. Untreated depression can lead to low self-worth and possibly even a hopelessness that could lead to suicide. There is help; you just have to be aware of the signs.