What is typical sadness?
It’s typical for children and adolescents to feel down when bad or unexpected things happen—we all do. We then begin to feel better when things take a turn for the better. When students remain sad despite positive things happening to and around them, that is concerning.
When should I be concerned about a student’s sadness?
While young students tend to be less moody, adolescents often are, so it can be difficult to recognize persistent sadness. Teachers may first notice that a student stops participating in class discussions or classroom activities they would typically enjoy. Or perhaps, the student engages but does not enjoy the activity. Excessive smartphone or computer use may also be indicative of a student’s attempt to distract him or herself from feeling sad.
Signs that a student may be experiencing problematic or persistent sadness include:
- Being easily and frequently annoyed.
- Expressing hopeless feelings most of the time.
- Lacking energy or seeming lazy for most days.
- Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities.
- Having trouble concentrating, even in simple tasks.
- Having trouble making decisions.
- Struggling with or putting little effort into schoolwork.
- Not turning in schoolwork.
- Saying negative things about themself.
- Expressing negative thoughts about the world, other people, and the future.
- Changing eating patterns for either eating too little or too much.
- Gaining or losing weight in a short period of time.
- Social withdrawal.
- Being tired much of the time.
- Regularly missing school.
What can I do to help a student with persistent sadness?
Teachers who have concerns about a student’s sadness should communicate with the student’s caregivers and school mental health professionals. Beyond reporting concerns, there are a few things that teachers can attempt to help a student who seems to be sad more than expected:
- Be available to talk and listen. Teachers can provide a supportive ear to listen and hear about what a student is going through. If they can articulate what they believe is making them feel sad, acknowledge it and encourage open discussion.
- Suggest and encourage new experiences. Teachers might suggest that a student try new social activities or school clubs. Because children tend to withdraw when they are feeling sad and isolated, it is important for these students to be around others while participating in enjoyable activities.
- Encourage engagement in a healthy lifestyle. Teachers can also encourage a student to engage in a healthy lifestyle—the body and mind are strongly connected. Eating the right food, exercising, and getting enough sleep can have a positive impact on a student’s mood.
- Built physical activity into classroom routines. Teachers can increase opportunities for movement during learning activities. Students can move from one activity area to another. Teachers can also use walks, tours, and other opportunities to move during learning activities.
- Look for opportunities for success. It is important for a persistently sad student to feel successful in the classroom. Teachers can design lessons with success in mind and praise effort along the way and success upon completion.
- Offer the student additional help. Teachers can offer persistently sad students additional help if assignments are too challenging for them. Teachers can also offer the student additional time for assignment completion without a penalty for lateness.
- Communicate concerns to the student’s caregivers. If a student has been presenting persistent sadness that seems to be interfering with daily activities, a teacher should set up a meeting with the student’s caregivers.
- Speak with a school mental health professional. After speaking with a student’s caregiver, teachers may also consult with a school mental health professional to determine if further support or evaluation is needed.
- Seek support. With a caregiver’s permission, teachers may consult other professionals who specialize in helping children with emotional difficulties.
Pediatricians or family physicians can help to address initial concerns and refer to specialized professionals. Also, whenever possible, a consultation with a mental health professional may be helpful.
The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).
Sadness that is too frequent, intense, present in many different contexts, discrepant from those experienced by children the same age, and that they negatively interfere with classroom daily activities may indicate the possibility of Depressive Mood Disorder.
Where to find more information
Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Depressive Mood Disorder can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].
If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.
You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.