Lunenburg Program Will Help Teachers Recognize Depression
LUNENBURG -- Identify signs of depression and remove the stigma associated with mental illness. Those are just two of the goals of a new program that will be implemented among eighth-grade students at the Middle School in March.
″(Depression) doesn’t always just look like sad all the time,” Karma Tousignant, dean of students, said at a meeting of the School Advisory Council on Tuesday.
Tousignant presented members with an overview of the program, which was developed in part by Boston Children’s Hospital. She said research estimates that approximately 2 million American teenagers experience depression each year, and that of those only about 40 percent were receiving treatment.
“The (statistic) that jumps out at me the most is that an estimated one in five adolescents will experience depression before the age of 19,” Tousignant said. “Those are our kids now, right? We’ve got them here in this building until they’re almost 19.”
The curriculum will be an “opt-in” program, meaning parents would have to give permission for their child to take part in the curriculum, according to Principal Tim Santry.
“A letter will go home to parents and they will have to sign off on this, saying that they agree with their child taking part in this,” Santry said. He added that an alternative educational program would be offered to any students who opted out of the curriculum.
Tousignant said the program would train teachers to recognize the symptoms of depression in their classroom.
“It’s important for us always to be paying attention to why certain kids (who show signs of depression) might be doing these things,” Tousignant said. “It’s important for us to be mindful of what this looks like.”
According to the curriculum, teachers who are worried about a student should observe and record any changes in behavior or mood, keep records of their concerns, and communicate closely with school officials.
Tousignant stressed that teachers would not be expected to diagnose or treat students.
“We want teachers to know what their resources are if they are concerned about a student,” Tousignant said.
In addition to increasing awareness about depression and suicide, the program is aimed at increasing student confidence and expand their skills in obtaining help in the event they are feeling depressed themselves, or if they notice changes in mood and behavior among their peers.
According to the program, some of the signs of depression in the classroom include difficulty following rules, withdrawal, test anxiety, and extreme sensitivity to perceived criticism.
Brandon Kibbe, a parent representative on the council, asked why the program was being implemented among the eighth-graders as opposed to older students.
“Because the average age onset of depression is 13,” Tousignant answered.
Follow Landry on Twitter @Landry17Stephen.