Posts Tagged ‘Depression’

Tips for Tackling the Mental Health Stigma in Your Classroom

December 3, 2014

depression

I must admit that I have never been formally trained on how to teach a child suffering from mental health issues or even how to bring the topic up in the classroom.

Whilst these tips by Martin Williams are all within the realms of common sense, it is good to get the reassurance that you can deal with something effectively even if you were never trained to do so:

 

Talk about mental health

“Mental health was never mentioned at school at all,” says Charlotte Walker, who now writes a blog on mental health issues. “I found out I had depression aged 12 from a teenage health guide.”

Now a mother, Walker is acutely aware that there is still a worrying lack of discussion about mental health in schools. It’s a problem that can not only lead to stigmatisation, but also cause health issues to go undiagnosed. “My son’s experience is that schools focus on the ‘safer’ feeling topics, such as insomnia and exam stress, but don’t dare go into the realms of bipolar or schizophrenia.”

Walker suggests that teachers should tackle the problem by simply trying to be more candid about mental health when chatting to children. “We’ve seen that sex and relationship education doesn’t always work because it’s in dedicated sessions,” she explains. “I think it’s important to have a general spirit of openness.”

It’s also important to talk openly about what support is in place for children who are experiencing difficulties, she says. “It tends to be that you only find out what’s on offer once you’ve declared your child is having problems,” Walker says. “If the information is given out to everyone, no one is singled out for stigma or discrimination.”

But tackle derogatory language

While it’s important to encourage discussion of mental health, research has shown that the use of pejorative terms about mental health problems are common in many children’s everyday language. While this is reflective of a wider societal problem, teachers can do their bit by cracking down on language when it is used in a derogatory or abusive way.

“Discriminatory language needs to be challenged,” says Walker. “Schools have come a long way with this on homophobia, but we need challenge the use derogatory words like ‘psycho’ or ‘schizo’ and the devaluing of clinical terms.”

Consultant psychiatrist Arun Chopra has said previously that misuse of terminology leads to misunderstandings about mental health. “You would never hear it used in relation to a physical condition,” he says. “You wouldn’t hear someone being described as a bit diabetic.”

Importantly, however – as has been pointed out before – language is just the visible surface of a deeper discrimination, so tacking language alone can never be the full solution.

Be aware

Unlike physical problems, some mental illnesses aren’t so obvious. “Only a couple of teachers and a handful of friends knew I was anything other than totally fine because I hid it,” says Lorraine Davies, who suffered from anxiety and depression at school. “If I’d been schizophrenic or suicidal maybe it would have been more noticeable, so, weirdly, I might have found more support and less whispering from friends behind my back as they tried to work out why I was being ‘weird’.”

For teachers, the key is to be on the look out for warning signs, according to Dr Raphael Kelvin, the clinical lead for Minded, a website designed to help pupils and teachers understand mental health issues. He suggests that teachers brush up on their knowledge of symptoms and never ignore a child whose behaviour fluctuates.

“If teachers understand that depression can strike not just when someone is saying they’re depressed, but also with someone who’s concentration and motivation has changed, they might be able to help them.”

Kelvin says teachers need to be alert, but do not need to become psychiatrists to help. If in doubt, he says, share your concerns with parents and other teachers to get to the root of the problem.

Help children tell their story to friends

“It’s very important to have a narrative about these things,” says Dr Kelvin, “people need a story to explain how things are. When kids come to the clinic after a period of difficulty, I often try to encourage them to have a story about their experience to explain what they’ve been through to their peers and friends.

“Often they either want to tell everybody or nobody, and the responses vary. The kid who tells everybody can become the butt of insensitive remarks; but the ones who tell nobody end up feeling very isolated. So how do they talk about it to their friends and how much do they want to say? What words do they need to tell their story in a way that’s not too painful? I think those are the kind of things that teachers can support pupils with. If you hear the story of why someone is behaving in a certain way you get a depth of understanding.”

Don’t alienate them further

A child who is experiencing mental health discrimination is such a delicate issue that approaching it clumsily or ignoring it all together can intensify the problem.

Davies says that a lack of understanding among certain teachers pushed her further outside the protection school should provide. “I was asked never to attend one teacher’s classes ever again as I was often late to his 9am because my anxiety was too high for me to get the school bus. Another went out of his way to provoke me – I think he thought I was a drama queen who needed a firm hand.”

Even teachers who are trying to help need to be careful, says Wilson. They should listen closely to pupils’ social concerns and approach issues with huge sensitivity.

“For instance, there are an awful lot of children who will have nothing to do with their classroom assistant because their friends laugh at them,” he says. “You’ve got to take that on board because their self-esteem is often at such a low ebb that anything will set them off. It’s all very finely balanced.”

 

Click on the link to read A Lack of Proper Sleep Does a World of Damage to a Child’s Attention Span

Click on the link to read What an ISIS School Looks Like

Click on the link to read Using Children as Bait is Abhorrent

Click on the link to read The Outrageous Pro-Gun Picture Book for Kids

Click on the link to read Sousa’s Techniques to Build Self-Esteem

 

 

Bullying from a Teenager’s Perspective

August 6, 2014

bullying

Courtesy of clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg:

 

Hello Parents,

Your teens are getting ready to head back to high school and some of them are just beginning as freshmen. All summer long, I have been working with focus groups of teens and they have been talking to me and to each other and have been quite candid about their thoughts about bullying. They have shared their most intimate experiences, their concerns and their very creative ideas about how to deal with bullies.

This is what your kids want you to know about the bullying experience, but might never tell you. You see, they don’t want to upset you, disappoint you, worry you and are even concerned that you might not be interested. They are wrong. I know that but they don’t. Here is what they are not telling you:

1. The majority of your teens report that while they may not have been bullied, they have witnessed a peer being bullied.

2. They have not always been sure how to intervene at these times, but they have ideas.

3. They frequently and in large numbers report that an adult should be told about bullying incidents, but feel that even when they tell adults the adults are NOT likely to intervene effectively. They report that adults look the other way, don’t take bullying seriously enough and even give meaningless consequences to the bully.

4. By and large, the well-spoken and passionate teens feel that the adults are letting them down in this arena. YIKES. I know that no adult in a position to help teens wants to be seen as ineffective and dismissive.

5. Your kids have some very creative ideas about how to handle bullies including:

a. attempting to befriend them in the hope that a bully can become an ally.

b. making the bully laugh so that the bully learns a different style of interacting.

c. letting the bully know the impact that they are having on others. Many teens feel that bullies are clueless about their painful impact on others.

d. asking them about their lives. Many teens feel that bullies are probably hurting. It’s amazing isn’t it that teens feel empathy for bullies?

AND

e. they have even expressed that you raise your kids to have empathy so that they are less likely to act in a socially aggressive and emotionally painful manner. These large groups of male and female teens have been telling me all summer long that they are concerned that some parents may inadvertently be raising bullies.

Your teens would also like you to know that:

1. They see many parents acting as bullying role models for their kids. They worry that you may be encouraging exclusivity, cliquey behavior and even physical aggression. Teens are and always have been watching the adults around them.

2. They think that adults should curtail gossiping because kids mimic them and gossiping is one of the worst and most hurtful forms of social bullying. They are on to something here; aren’t they?

3. They worry that you are bullying your kids in the privacy of your homes and that your kids are going to school upset, frustrated and looking for a place in which to practice what they have learned at home.

AND

4. They are concerned that you might not even have given consideration to the idea that your own kid may be the bully. They think that you should consider this idea and work with your teen to be a kinder and more empathic individual.

I do not want to leave you with the impression that teens all blame the adults in their lives for the bullying behaviors of teens. Many teens reported learning empathic and pro-social behaviors from their parents. Amen to the child-rearing style in those homes. We need more of that. We need parents to realize that you are your teens’ most important role models. I have been saying this for years. Take this important opportunity in your life to teach your kids that their words and behaviors can either soothe and comfort or destroy the hearts and souls of their peers. Do not ever rule out the thought that your own child may be the bully at times and if you suspect this then work with your child to change this behavior.

We all remember own experiences being both the bullies and the bullied. None of us flourished from these experiences. In fact, many of us became emotionally and physically sick during these times. Your kids and I are calling upon you to be aware of your role and power in helping to both raise good kids and to become even more aware of the terrible interactional cycle of bullying that continues to persist in high schools all over.

Good luck.

Own your power.

Help your kids.

XO

Dr. BG

 

Click on the link to read Girl Gets taped and tied to tree and ‘sexually assaulted’: Where Were the Teachers?

Click on the link to read Start Being Proactive When it Comes to Bullying
Click on the link to read The Real “Mean Girls”

Click on the link to read Anti-Bullying Song Goes Viral

Click on the link to read Some Schools Just Don’t Get it When it Comes to Bullying

Click on the link to read The Bystander Experiment (Video)

 

11 Mental Illness Myths

March 29, 2014

mental illness

Courtesy of The Huffington Post:

 

You Are Not Sick
MYTH: Bipolar disorder just means mood swings
FACT: Bipolar disorder is an illness with severe mood swings. Often, bipolar can interfere with one’s daily functioning, and sometimes can even lead to suicide, according to Dr. Prakash Masand, a psychiatrist and president of Global Medical Education.

Am I Cured?
MYTH: Once you feel better you can stop taking your medication
FACT: Almost all patients with psychiatric illness need maintenance treatment for a while, even if they start “feeling better.” Masand says this is to prevent relapses and recurrences, similar to diabetes and heart disease patients.

Your Relationship Is To Blame
MYTH: Psychiatric illness is a result of bad relationships
FACT: All psychiatric illnesses have a genetic component and an environmental component, Masand says. A bad relationship, for example, is only one of several factors.

You Can’t Handle It
MYTH: Psychiatric illnesses are due to weak character or inadequate coping skills
FACT: Psychiatric illnesses are medical illnesses with several origins like all other illnesses, Masand says. Just because you cry easily or can’t cope with personal problems, it doesn’t make you weak or more likely to be mentally ill.

It Will Go Away
MYTH: Depression is just sadness that will go away
FACT: Depression is a serious medical illness with morbidity and mortality, Masand says. Not all people show obvious signs of being depressed either. While some seek medication or go to therapy to cope, Masand says others try exercise, yoga or meditation. On the flip side, if someone is often sad or emotional, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are depressed.

You Won’t Have A ‘Normal’ Life
MYTH: Once you have depression or bipolar disorder, you will never achieve your full potential or live a ‘normal’ life
FACT: Some of the most successful people in various fields have had depression or bipolar disorder, including Isaac Newton, Beethoven, Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey, Masand says. People who go through a mental illness may also feel they can’t ever get back to a “normal life.” This is another myth. Someone with a mental illness can still function, go to work, raise a family or perform any other task.

Suicide Isn’t Really A Big Problem
MYTH: Suicide is not a big problem in our society
FACT: You may not know someone who has committed suicide, but this doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. In 2009, for example, suicide accounted for 3,890 deaths in Canada among both genders, and according to Statistics Canada, mental illness is the most important risk factor. In the U.S., Masand says suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in 2007.

If You Seek Help, You Are Weak
MYTH: Treatment for psychiatric illness is a cop-out for weak people
FACT: Treatment is necessary for psychiatric illnesses like it is for other medical illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, Masand says. This myth is also commonly believed because finding help or telling people close to you about your illnesses can also lead to shaming and embarrassment.

They Are Just ‘Crazy’
MYTH: All patients with schizophrenia are dangerous
FACT: If you’ve ever seen schizophrenia or mental health portrayed in mainstream media, you might just think everyone who is mentally ill is “crazy.” Only a small proportion of patients with schizophrenia can be violent and this is usually because they are untreated, Masand says.

Just Get Over It
MYTH: Talk therapy is just whining
FACT: Several types of talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, can be just as effective as medication in treating depression and anxiety disorders.

 

Click on the link to read Discussing Mental Illness with Children

Kids and Celebrities: A Reality Check

February 23, 2014

charlotte dawson

“Academy Award winning actors have it all.”

“I’d die to become a TV star.”

“That sports star has it all. Money, a gorgeous partner, a mansion …”

“I’d be so happy if I had that model’s looks.”

 

Our children grow up believing that fame and fortune comes without its price. That the celebrities adorning their bedroom walls are the definition of happiness and that being well known equates to being well liked.

It’s all a lie.

Unfortunately, the events of the past month prove how false this theory is. First there was the giant of an actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, whose potential for further groundbreaking performances was destroyed at the hands of a drug addiction.

This morning I heard the sad news of the death of local model and television star, Charlotte Dawson. Apparently, she died as a result of debilitating chronic depression which she had experienced for some time.

Our celebrities are human. They make mistakes, they have bad habits and they have their ups and downs like we all do.

Instead of setting children up to believing that happiness lies in a bank balance or a golden statue, let’s show them how they can find some real happiness for themselves.

 

Click on the link to read Athletes Can Set a Better Example for Our Kids

Click on the link to read Classroom Resources for Teaching About the Life of Nelson Mandela

Click on the link to read Nine-Year-Old Stands Up for His School (Video)

Click on the link to read Inspiring Kids who Look After a Sick Parent

Click on the link to read The Perfect Example of Courage and Self-Respect

Discussing Mental Illness with Children

September 29, 2013

 

mental

 

Valuable information courtesy of aacap.org:

 

Kids are naturally curious and have questions about mental illnesses. Understanding mental illnesses can be challenging for adults as well as for children. Myths, confusion, and misinformation about mental illnesses cause anxiety, create stereotypes, and promote stigma. During the past 50 years, great advances have been made in the areas of diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. Parents can help children understand that these are real illnesses that can be treated.

In order for parents to talk with a child about mental illnesses, they must be knowledgeable and reasonably comfortable with the subject. Parents should have a basic understanding and answers to questions such as, what are mental illnesses, who can get them, what causes them, how are diagnoses made, and what treatments are available. Some parents may have to do a little homework to be better informed.

When explaining to a child about how a mental illness affects a person, it may be helpful to make a comparison to a physical illness. For example, many people get sick with a cold or the flu, but only a few get really sick with something serious like pneumonia. People who have a cold are usually able to do their normal activities. However, if they get pneumonia, they will have to take medicine and may have to go to the hospital. Similarly, feelings of sadness, anxiety, worry, irritability, or sleep problems are common for most people. However, when these feelings get very intense, last for a long period of time and begin to interfere with school, work, and relationships, it may be a sign of a mental illness that requires treatment.

Parents should be aware of their child’s needs, concerns, knowledge, and experience with mental illnesses. When talking about mental illnesses, parents should:

  • communicate in a straightforward manner
  • communicate at a level that is appropriate to a child’s age and development level
  • have the discussion when the child feels safe and comfortable
  • watch their child’s reaction during the discussion
  • slow down or back up if the child becomes confused or looks upset

Considering these points will help any child to be more relaxed and understand more of the conversation.

Pre-School Age Children

Young children need less information and fewer details because of their more limited ability to understand. Preschool children focus primarily on things they can see, for example, they may have questions about a person who has an unusual physical appearance, or is behaving strangely. They would also be very aware of people who are crying and obviously sad, or yelling and angry.

School-Age Children

Older children may want more specifics. They may ask more questions, especially about friends or family with emotional or behavioral problems. Their concerns and questions are usually very straightforward. “Why is that person crying? Why does Daddy drink and get so mad? Why is that person talking to herself?” They may worry about their safety or the safety of their family and friends. It is important to answer their questions directly and honestly and to reassure them about their concerns and feelings.

Teenagers

Teenagers are generally capable of handling much more information and asking more specific and difficult questions. Teenagers often talk more openly with their friends and peers than with their parents. As a result, some teens may have already have misinformation about mental illnesses. Teenagers respond more positively to an open dialogue which includes give and take. They are not as open or responsive when a conversation feels one-sided or like a lecture.

Talking to children about mental illnesses can be an opportunity for parents to provide their children with information, support, and guidance. Learning about mental illnesses can lead to improved recognition, earlier treatment, greater understanding and compassion, as well as decreased stigma.

 

Click on the link to read Tips to Help Parents Control Their Kids’ TV Habits

Click on the link to read 10 Steps Parents Can Take if their Child is Being Bullied

Click on the link to read School Holidays are Very Hard for Many Parents (Video)

Click on the link to read 20 Reassuring Things Every Parent Should Hear

Click on the link to read 10 Tips for Nurturing Independence Among Children

Click on the link to read 4 Tips for Getting Your Kids up in the Morning

Click on the link to read Seven Valuable Tips for Raising Your Child’s Self-Esteem

Click on the link to read Top Ten Compliments Your Children Need to Hear

 

 

I Also Had a Student Hold a Toy Gun to my Face

February 17, 2013

toy

This story is vaguely similar to something that happened to me in my first year of teaching. Whilst I was teaching a maths class, a student from another class barged into my classroom and aimed an uncannily genuine looking toy gun at my face from the close range. He then joined in the hilarity that ensued when I covered my face with my hands, obviously petrified by the ordeal.

The student later got a measly one day in-school suspension for the prank.

I sympathise with the teacher who had a similar experience:

A VICTORIAN teacher who had a toy gun pulled on her by a pupil in a misguided prank is claiming hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation from the Education Department and the former student.

Suzanne May Tyson, 54, claims she may never work again due to stress after believing the $2 plastic gun pointed at her by then 16-year-old Mooroopna Secondary College student Adam Tyler Dorsett was real.

On March 4, 2009, Ms Tyson was teaching in the library when Mr Dorsett held a replica gun to her head in close proximity and pulled the trigger, a writ filed in the Supreme Court earlier this month states.

The court document alleges Mr Dorsett fled, but then returned to the library and verbally threatened the terrified teacher.

Ms Tyson allegedly suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression as a result of the incident, and has been unable to return to work.

The writ states she was rendered incapable of any employment, perhaps indefinitely.
There will be some who disapprove of Ms. Tyson’s lawsuit. Some will accuse her of gold digging and question if her conditions could possibly have occurred from such a mild incident. Whilst I have neither suffered post traumatic stress nor depression from my similar experience, I wouldn’t recommend it to my worst enemy.

Click on the link to read Who is Going to Stand Up For Bullied Teachers?

Click on the link to read 12 Tips for Managing Time in the Classroom

Click on the link to read If Teachers Were Paid More I Wouldn’t Have Become One

Click on the link to read Different Professions, Same Experiences

Click on the link to read Our Pay Isn’t the Problem

Tips for Teaching Children With Depression

August 28, 2012

Courtesy of Shannon Steen-Larsen from ehow.com:

  • 1

    Understand the symptoms of depression. The symptoms include being sad, anxious or feeling empty; hopelessness; guilt; worthlessness; decreased energy level; insomnia; eating problems (eating too much or not enough); thoughts of suicide or pains and aches that are not helped with treatment.

  • 2

    Talk to the student. If you notice that a student is exhibiting depression-like symptoms, don’t just stand by. Pull the student aside in private and share your concern. Talk to the student to try to understand what he is feeling and how you can help. Express your concern for the well being and future of the student.

  • 3

    Find success in the student. Often students suffering from depression will feel inadequate, pessimistic and lack self esteem. Help build the student’s self esteem and self confidence by praising her when she does a job well. Find out where to student excels in her studies and build on it. Helping the child to build her self esteem may help her to recover from depression.

  • 4

    Get the school counselor involved. If you have a depressed student, don’t address the issue by yourself, involve the school counselor. A school counselor can talk to the child and help him recognize his feelings and how to deal with them. The school counselor is also an excellent resource for you when it comes to working with the depressed child.

  • 5

    Get the parents involved. During the day, the child is at school much of the day and the parent may not be aware that their child is depressed. Share your concerns with the child’s parents and work as a team to help the child. Give the parents frequent updates on the progression of the student in the classroom.

Sleep Disorders Often Mistaken for ADHD

July 15, 2012

Whilst the diagnosis of ADHD is reaching epidemic proportions, yet another possible explanation is being uncovered:

“Sleep disorders may contribute to behaviors that resemble ADHD during the day,” says Kevin Smith, a pediatric psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo. A study published in March in Pediatrics analyzed more than 11,000 children over a period of six years, beginning at 6 months of age, and revealed that children suffering from sleep-disordered breathing—including snoring, breathing through the mouth, and apnea, where the child seems to stop breathing for several seconds at a time—had a higher incidence of behavioral and emotional issues such as hyperactivity, aggressiveness, depression, and anxiety. In fact, they were 50 to 90 percent more likely to develop ADHD-like symptoms than were normal breathers. And those children who suffered most severely from all three sleep-disordered breathing behaviors at around age 2 and a half had the highest risk for hyperactivity.

A lack of sleep can damage brain neurons, particularly in the prefrontal cortex region, says Karen Bonuck, lead author and professor of family and social medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. This may be due to a decrease in oxygen and an increase in carbon dioxide levels; interference with sleep’s restorative processes; and a disruption in the balance of cellular and chemical systems. What can result is inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity—the classic trademarks of ADHD. When the disorder is suspected in a child, “nighttime sleep patterns should be reviewed with the primary care doctor,” says Bonuck. “Parents may even wish to video or audio tape the problematic behavior as a first step.”

Now it is up to doctors to do their due diligence and ensure that what may seem like ADHD isn’t a raft of other minor possibilities such as sleep or diet issues.

Click here to read my post, ‘Are Children Getting Enough Sleep?’

Click here to read my post, ‘Sleep Deprived Children in the Classroom’.

The Cheapening of Real Conditions

July 10, 2012

I know of people who struggle with debilitating depression. It is a complex illness, with many different triggers and dimensions. I imagine that it must frustrate people suffering from depression to read articles like this one:

Violence aired on TV round the clock is causing depression, anxiety and post-traumatic disorder amongst children, according to a senior psychiatrist at the Ziauddin Hospital, Dr Syed Ali Wasif.

 “A child or any other individual who is abruptly exposed to the sound of a cracker or breaking news on a TV channel goes through fear, anxiety, uncertainty and hopelessness,” Dr Wasif told The News on Tuesday.

 “The child can develop depression and post-traumatic disorder. It also affects their educational productivity,” he said.

Are you telling me news is a trigger for depression? How would people suffering from this complex condition feel about that assertion?

The same goes with autism. With the autism spectrum seemingly widening every day, now including cases of such slight autism you wouldn’t be able to detect it if you weren’t alerted to the diagnosis, I feel for those with clear autism. Why should they be pigeonholed with others who have a dramatically easier quality of life and functionality?

If “the sound of a cracker” really is enough to send a child into clinical depression I’ll eat my shoe.

Click on the link to read Schools Have to Wake Up to Confidence Issues Amongst Students

Click on the link to read, Stricken with Self-Doubt


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