5 Ways Teachers Should Support Students With Anxiety and Depression

Having anxiety and depression can be hard. But having anxiety and depression while in school can be almost impossible. Getting out of bed is hard enough, but getting up and going to school is a entirely different feat.

Going to school could be easier if someone understood how I felt and how hard I’m trying.

Teachers can help to make it easier for students with mental health issues in the following ways:

1. Participation.

If I’m not raising my hand, that doesn’t mean I’m not learning. It doesn’t mean I don’t understand. It means I’m too anxious to participate. Even if the answer is obvious and I know my answer is right, thoughts still circle in my head. What if I’m wrong? What will people think? They’ll think I’m stupid. They’ll laugh at me. They’ll hate me. Don’t downgrade me on participation because my mental health prevents me from raising my hand and answering.

2. Homework.

When the school day is impossible enough to get through, going home to do homework makes the hell last even longer. I will try my best. I will try to get it done. But if I don’t, please don’t be mad. Give me an extra day and I’ll have it done.

3. Group work.

Assigning me a group to work with is not always going to end well. If you think you’re mixing up the people I’m usually with so I can make new friends, that doesn’t help. The problem with assigned groups is the people I’ll be working with don’t always work well with me. This leads to more problems, such as me doing all the work by myself. I’d rather work with people I’m comfortable with rather than people that cause me to be more anxious.

4. Ask me how I’m doing.

School is such a difficult time for most kids, including me. And for people struggling with mental illness, it just adds to the difficulty of school. I probably won’t feel mentally or physically well most days. And no one cares. Because school is necessary. But if someone, even you, a teacher, asks me how I’m doing, I might just feel like someone cares. Make me feel like I matter, like my voice matters. Ask me how I am.

5. Be patient.

If I’m not doing well academically, don’t make me feel worse about it than I already do. I’m sorry I’m not doing well, but I don’t feel well. Don’t get upset over missed assignments or failed tests. Talk to me about it. Find out what made me do so poorly. There are other reasons than a lack of intelligence. Be patient with me and I’ll feel like I matter and I should keep trying to do well.

In the end, school is hard for most kids. So remember, for students with mental health issues, it’s probably 10 times worse. Try to understand what we’re going through to the best of your ability. I’m sure it’s hard for you to see us struggle, so ask us why we’re struggling. Listening and patience will make us feel so much more understood. Remember, we used all the energy we had to come to school, so we are trying.

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Thinkstock photo via Jack Hollingsworth

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