A recent study out of the Queensland University of Technology links improper school fit with teen depression. In a study of 2,000 students, researchers surveyed how teens felt about their school, their mood, and other factors. Professor Ian Shochet was amazed at the correlation between school and depression. He says, “The school experience is so important. Its link with depression is more important than parental attachment. The strength of the correlation is breathtaking.”
Understanding Teen Depression
Many teens don’t love school, but parents must be able to differentiate annoyance with school from depression. Shochet encourages parents to pull their children out of schools if they express extreme dissatisfaction. He recommends, “It’s very important to get the right fit for a child. I would not be doing it in a knee-jerk way—you have to carefully consider it—but a sense of belonging and a good fit for a child is very important.
While one in five teenagers experiences clinical levels of depression at some point in their teenage years (the chances are higher in females), listening to your teen about his or her school experience could help decrease these high statistics. Make sure to talk to your teen about school, and if he or she thinks they would be happier at another institution. Parents also should be aware of the warning signs of depression:
- Persistent dad, anxious feelings.
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or helplessness.
- Crying episodes.
- Increased agitation.
- Fatigue and decreased energy.
- Loss of interest in activities.
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions.
- Sleeping too much or not enough.
- Overeating or appetite loss.
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems.
What You Can Do
While it is unlikely that a clinically depressed teen would experience all of these symptoms at once, depression can be detected if a symptom is difficult enough to deal with that it interferes with everyday life, and is present all the time and lasts for more than two weeks. A teenage “mood swing” is not a warning sign of depression, but weeks of unhappiness should be carefully watched and noted.
In conclusion, Professor Shochet believes that it is worth moving your teen to a new school if he or she starts displaying signs of depression. He advises, “If you have a school where a child is not happy, it’s worth moving them to another school.” This study demonstrates that parents and teens can act directly to combat depression, and that a change in environment could do wonders for your depressed teen. Ultimately, teenagers need to feel valued and connected with their school to lead happy lives.