5 ways to spot signs of depression in children

Spotting depression- sad girl comforted by teacher in class

5 ways to spot signs of depression in children

As Children’s mental health week is approaching on the 6th-13th of February, it is crucial for teachers to spot signs of mental health issues within their pupils. In this blog, we explore how to spot signs of depression in children and what you can do to help them.

Spotting depression early is the best way to help a child who may be suffering. The earlier, the better chance of assisting pupils to get the help they need. But how do you know when a child needs help? We have sourced 5 ways to spot signs of depression in children so that you can keep an eye on all your pupils. Doing this ensures the best possible outcome for their mental health and wellbeing.


1 Not being interested in things they used to enjoy

It’s common for children to change what they are interested in or what they enjoy. However, if they completely stop everything they enjoy, something is likely wrong. If you notice a pupil not acting the way they usually do, or not enjoying a subject they usually have fun with, then it is best to have a conversation with them. Don’t try to force them to do anything; they may be struggling within themselves. Take a cautious approach to this and try to find out more. Ask them why they have been behaving differently or why they aren’t enjoying things they used to love anymore. It could be as simple as they may be bored of it or it could be a deeper issue that needs addressing.


2 Sadness or low mood that doesn’t go away

If you notice a pupil who is consistently in a low mood or experiencing a long spell of sadness, then this could be a sign of a mental health problem. Life is hard, as we all know, but children are learning and developing. Helping them through this time or even referring them to a professional may be one way to improve their mood.

A lot of children have a tough time talking to their parents or teachers as they can be scared. To combat this, try letting your class know that you are here for them and be warm and friendly so they feel safe. You can also approach pupils who seem to be struggling and let them know they can open up to you. It is best to loop the parents in to make them aware too.

Another way to encourage your class to talk about their feelings is by using how I feel wheels. This allows your pupils to express how they are feeling and helps you keep track of their mood every day. Children can identify, understand and manage a wide range of emotions which benefits their mental health. Plus, you can notice if a pupil is struggling if you use these wheels every morning.

If a pupil still doesn’t feel comfortable opening up to you, then this is okay as they may talk to someone else. There are lots of charities and professional help that are available to help children with their issues.


3 Loss of appetite

A loss of appetite or refusing to eat is another clear sign of spotting depression in children. This could be due to a variety of different factors. One could be that they may be struggling with their body/ appearance, which is becoming more common due to social media. What children see on social media could lead to feeling bad about themselves, resorting to a loss of appetite. Other factors that are common for children to lose their appetite are any ongoing issues in their personal lives (this could be things like divorce), a huge change in their lives (such as changing school), bullying and even money issues that lead to parents struggling to feed their children.

Alternatively, they could be using food to seek comfort and so are eating more than usual. Many children and adults do this particularly when there are stresses in their lives.


spotting depression- boy sleeping during class

4 Feeling tired all the time

If a child always has their head on the desk in class or is struggling to pay attention due to being tired, then there could be something wrong. This is especially the case if it seems out of the ordinary for the pupil. It could be something minor that is making them lose sleep. But, if it keeps happening and the child always seems tired, this could be a sign they are having feelings of low mood, depression or going through a crisis. Reach out if a child is showing signs of tiredness constantly and make them aware that you are there to support them.


5 Being more emotional and irritable than usual

If a child seems more irritable than usual whilst in class, then keep an eye on them. It could just be life and nothing to worry about, but it could be something more. Make sure to sit down with them and see what’s going on and why they are being like this. It could be something easy to sort out that you can provide solutions to, or it could be a deeper issue. Take notes on the conversation so you can find the correct next steps to take. It could be as simple as changing the way their lessons are taught if they feel like they can’t handle the workload at the moment. Or it could be referring them to a specialist for deeper issues.

Another way to keep track of your class’s emotions to see if they are becoming more emotional and irritable is by allowing them to track their mental health. Use journals that they can write thoughts in and express their feelings. You can then read these to see if anyone needs help and prevents you from taking notes during conversations. This allows you to focus more on the conversation between you and a pupil rather than trying to plan out the next steps whilst they are opening up.


Important Note

This is a serious topic and could be causing a child trouble. Do your analysis, but seek professional help, as this is just guidance on how to help if a child is seemingly acting different. We want the best for our youth, so we created this blog to spread more awareness and understanding of depression.


Keep an eye on your pupils and introduce tools to assist your class in discussing their feelings. Make sure they all feel comfortable talking to you and make it clear that you are there for them as their teacher. If there are any worrying signs of serious issues within a pupil, make sure to contact their parents and suggest different avenues of support that their child can access.

Depression is just one of the many different mental health issues children can face today. For children’s mental health week and beyond, ensure that you use these 5 ways to spot signs of depression in children to become aware of what to look out for and how to help them. Spotting depression can be difficult with children and knowing how to tackle this appropriately can be hard, but we hope this gives an insight into the world of depression.


Keep an eye out for another huge mental health issue that children can face as we will be exploring 5 ways to spot signs of anxiety in children

Discover more ways you can support children with their mental health in our ‘Supporting Children’s mental health in schools’ blog.

<a href="https://blog.hope-education.co.uk/author/amber-vaccianna/" target="_self">Amber Vaccianna</a>

Amber Vaccianna

Hope blog writer

30 January 2023

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