Positive Relationships for Students with Depression

What is Depression?

  • Depression, also known as Major Depressive Disorder when diagnosed, is an extremely common medical illness with more than 3 million cases in the US per year. It is a very serious mood disorder that negatively impacts the way an individual feels, acts, and thinks.
  • One in 6 people will experience a depressive episode sometime throughout their life, and it is common for depression to appear for the first time during late-teens to mid 20s. 

What are the symptoms?

Teenage Students with Depression:

Up to 23% of UPrep students are diagnosed with depression or experience symptoms of depression

Up to 40% of 10th graders and up to 41% of 12th graders in Washington state have experienced symptoms of depression

Up to 31% of high school students in the United States have experienced symptoms of depression

  • On the rise: Results of the fall 2016 Healhty Youth survey found that “the percentage of students who experience high anxiety, and who consider or attempt suicide, is on the rise in Washington state.” 

Interview with University Prep Student

Here is my interview with a University Prep senior who suffers from Major Depressive Disorder:

Me: Do you think that depression at UPrep has increased in recent years?

Interviewee: Yes, because the school can be not the best environment for some people.

Me: What do you think are the reasons behind the increase in teenage depression rates?

Interviewee: Teenagers are getting less exercise, less sleep, less social interactions, people are meaner because they think that saying things over phones (which is how we communicate now) isn’t real, but it is.

Me: What do you do to deal with your depression?

Interviewee: I take my meds, go to therapy, I try to get attention from guys, I’m reckless; I try to find rushes wherever I can.

Me: What do you wish teachers understood about the impacts of depression on school work?

Interviewee: It’s not a choice, it’s not that I’m not working hard. I’m trying really really hard, it’s a mental thing and you can’t just try to be happier, that’s not how it works, it’s an actual chemical imbalance in your brain. I wish that they were more understanding and understood that people are different.

Me: What do you wish parents knew about teenage depression?

Interviewee: That I can’t just be happy. That I do everything for a reason, it’s not just random, it’s not just because I’m dumb.

Me: Would you say that there is a stigma surrounding mental illnesses at our school?

Interviewee: Oh 100%. I do things because of my depression; I miss a lot of school and people think I’m dumb and like slacking off. People look at my wrists and see my scars and think I’m like weird and don’t want to talk to me. People just don’t understand, and they also don’t undertstand the impacts they have on other people who are depressed.

Me: How do your friends and family contribute to your relationship with depression?

Interviewee: My friends help me a lot; they understand what I’m going through and don’t judge me for some of the reckless actions that I take. The positive things my parents are doing are that they are paying for my medication and my therapist, but my mom says things like get better or why aren’t you happier which just makes me upset.

Positive Psychology Concept – Positive Relationships:

What are positive relationships?

  • Positive relationships are relationships with others that can be built on the aspects of love, intimacy, mutual understanding, connection, and strong emotional or physical interaction. Strong relationships and connections with family members, friends, teachers, counselors, significant others, coaches, etc. have the potential to create a sense of support for students who are suffering from depression.

Why do positive relationships matter?

  • Humans are incredibly social animals, and Dr. Mitch Prinstein, a psychologist and esteemed professor, mentioned in an interview that it has been suggested through research that “the pain centers in our brain become activated when we are at risk of being isolated. This is because, in an evolutionary perspective, isolation would be the worst thing we could do for survival.”
  • Martin Seligman, often referred to as the “father of positive psychology,” also answered the question, “How do extremely happy people differ from the rest of us?” during a YouTube presentation by saying that they are extremely social.
  • Personally, I met my best friend through our shared experience with depression. I cannot stress enough how much my friendships have helped me through the worst times of my life; coming to school every day and knowing that I had a support system waiting for me was extremely effective in making me feel better, which is why I understand the importance of positive relationships in a teen’s life and want to urge everyone to reach out to those who seem to be struggling.

My Plan:

My plan in order to help students at my school who are depressed and implement the positive psychology concept of positive relationships is to have group meetings for students with depression to engage with each other and create connections; a sort of group therapy, but at school. At these meetings, students would exchange their contact information so that they would always have people who understand their situation to turn to and talk to, receive support from the counselors, learn how to communicate with teachers for accommodations, etc. It would be a 100% safe space in terms of confidentiality; everything said in the room would stay in the room unless the student gave the counselors permission to write to adults/ask for help on their behalf.

How can you Help?

Reach out to students who are depressed/ are showing signs or symptoms of depression. Often times students who are depressed suffer silently in fear of what the reaction might be if they were to share what’s happening with them. Depression and anxiety disorders also often go hand in hand, making it hard for the student to seek the proper treatment themselves. Encourage students to get the help that they need, and do not hesitate to inform adults/authority figures if someone you know is in immediate danger or at risk of suicide. Lastly, remember to be kind to everyone you come across – you never know what someone is going through.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Works Cited:

Cornwell, Paige. “Growing number of Washington students report they’ve thought about suicide — or attempted it.” The Seattle Times, 22 May 2017, Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

“Depression.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

Healthy Youth Survey. Healthy Youth Survey Fact Sheet: Depressive Feelings, Anxiety and Suicide for Washington State. 2018. Healthy Youth Survey, 2018, Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

“Mayo Clinic Minute: 5 signs your teenager is battling depression.” YouTube, uploaded by Mayo Clinic, 8 May 2018, Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

Metcalfe, Lindsay. E-mail interview. 19 Apr. 2019.

Pascha, Mariana. “The PERMA Model: Your Scientific Theory of Happiness.” Positive Psychology Program, 14 Feb. 2019, Accessed 20 Apr. 2019.

“Positive Relationships.” Positive Psychology News, Accessed 20 Apr. 2019.

Warning Signs of Depression you Shouldn’t Ignore. We Heart It, Jan. 2019, Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

“Washington Adolescent Mental Health Facts.” HHS, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2017, Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

“What Is Depression?” American Psychiatric Association, Jan. 2017, Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

Share this project
  1. April 24, 2019 by Lauren Silver

    Hey Kenna! I really love your project. It all really came together so seamlessly. I love how you used charts for the data and included a youtube video to capture the viewer. Very interesting!

  2. April 24, 2019 by Anne R Bingham

    This is a powerful presentation. I feel sad reading your interview–it sounds like the student is getting help, but not enough, and not enough understanding. It is good advice to be kind to everyone. Thanks for bringing together all of this information. It is a really good reminder for me. I hope you have shared this plan with the counselors at your school.

  3. April 28, 2019 by Luciano.Ferrato

    Hey Kenna,
    Your presentation is the first I’ve seen that appeals to the social facet of our biology. Have you thought about implementing clubs or affinity groups in your school to create an environment for like-experienced individuals to come together in a safe non-judgmental environment and share their thoughts? I can personally say my school does this and there is an asian american affinity group, african american afinity group, non-traditional family affinity group, lgbtqia affinity group and others I cant remember off the top of my head but they help give students with similar experiences a strong support system.

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