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Mental Health 2017-18

 

Kristin Moore, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist

Kristin received her doctorate degree in clinical psychology from John F. Kennedy University. Her specialty is in the area of child and adolescent psychology, and she has provided mental health and psychodiagnostic assessment services to children, adolescents, and their families in California community mental health clinics and hospitals for over a decade. Her interests include trauma, mood disorders, and bilingual and projective assessment.

 

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  • new!Who to Help a Student Who is Showing Signs of Depression

Question:

Hello, I am a fifth grade teacher and I have a question about a student who I suspect is depressed. This is a child who, at the beginning of the school year appeared much happier, and was talking and engaging with his peers. Now, he is more withdrawn, he doesn’t participate unless I call on him directly, and he appears to be in a bad mood most of the day. Do you have any recommendations about how to best help this student?


Answer:

Hello,

Thank you for sending in this great question.

First, I would like to highlight that it is normal for children and adolescents to go through periods where they experience increased feelings of moodiness or sadness. Children are highly susceptible to their surrounding environments, and there may be extenuating circumstances that are negatively impacting this student, such as family discord, peer struggles, or academic difficulties. It is concerning, however, that you mention this student has been behaving differently for the past few months. The fact that his withdrawn presentation is persisting, and represents a marked change from his affect at the beginning of the school year, warrants support.

When children are struggling to cope with stress, it can be difficult for them to know how to articulate their feelings. Depending on the child, the emotional turmoil could be internalized, externalized, or a combination of both. It will be important for this student to feel that he has a safe and caring place to share his thoughts and feelings without judgment or fear of consequences. I usually encourage teachers to start by asking the child if everything is okay, or to offer support. Sometimes kids don’t like being called on in class if they are having trouble keeping up, or if they are being bullied by others. If a teacher becomes aware of such issues, they will be better equipped to support the student in working towards a resolution.

There are also moments when students share that they are struggling with issues in their personal lives, or simply acknowledge that something is bothering them, without providing details. In these moments it may be most helpful to offer continued support, but also help the student identify someone with whom they feel more comfortable talking. This could be a favorite teacher, a sports coach, or an office support staff member. We want to encourage students to seek an adult who can help provide emotional support and aid in problem solving. Other resources may include school psychologists or trained mental health professionals who work on campus.

Finally, sometimes after checking in with a student, it is recommended that caregivers be contacted. Often this serves to increase communication between school and home, and lets the child know that there is a broad support system available to him/her. Strengthening the contact between school and the student’s caregivers also decreases the risk of the child “slipping through the cracks,” which could lead to further deterioration of the student’s mental health functioning. Children need to feel safe, respected, and cared for. Providing an empathetic, non-judgmental space is the first step in identifying how best to support the student’s current needs. I’m glad that you were able to notice these symptoms in your student, and I hope that you will have a chance to meet to talk with him soon.

Sincerely,
Kristin Moore, Psy.D.