Elementary students with depression more at risk for skill deficits, new study reports
- Researchers at the University of Missouri (MU) found evidence that children who show symptoms of depression in 2nd and 3rd grade are six times more likely to have social or academic skill deficits than those without, eSchool News reports.
- Though the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that as many as 3% of children ages 6-12 might have major depressive disorder and 30% of children in the study reported being mildly to severely depressed, parents and teachers often do not identify the symptoms, partly because they are seeing different aspects of the child’s behavior in their own environments.
- Keith Herman, a professor in the MU College of Education, suggests that mental health professionals should work with teachers and parents in the identification of symptoms of depression and that mental health screening should also include observation of social difficulties, inattention and skill deficits as possible symptoms of depression.
During the ongoing school safety debate, mental illness in students has emerged as a major concern. However, most students with mental health issues are not a danger to others. Instead, their symptoms affect them more subtly, interfering with their ability to learn and interact appropriately with others. Anxiety and depression can also keep students from attending school at all, hindering their education to an even greater extent.
States and school districts are looking at different ways to address the issue. The Edmonds School District in Washington, for example, is working to raise awareness about depression and suicide. New York state is now requiring mental health education in schools. And some advocates area calling for mental health screenings in schools.
Whatever the approach, experts say the need for more mental health professionals in schools is increasing. These professionals are not only better trained at recognizing symptoms but can also help teachers learn to spot them as well. These professionals, however, are also expected to be harder to find in years to come.