How Depression Affects Learning

Depression is a problem that has a negative impact on children’s learning. If your child is going backwards in their learning, it is worth asking if they might be among the 2% of children or 10% of teenagers who are dealing with depression.

The causes of depression are complex, and it doesn’t always appear as feeling sad. Some students will act out to cover up the feelings of sadness. Some students will skip school, be unable to focus on learning new information, or they may have a variety of other symptoms.

Causes of depression in children

Depression has genetic, psychological and environmental causes. If depression runs in a family, parents should be aware of the possibility of their child being affected. It may be triggered by a psychological reason (maybe negative self-talk) or an environmental factor (such as a grandparent dying.) Parents splitting up can be a major contributing factor, made even worse if the parents continue to fight.

Symptoms of depression in children in school

Depression stops a child from learning. Their thought processes slow down, they are swamped with negative thoughts, and their memory is poor. All of these leave them overwhelmed and unable to cope with their schoolwork. This makes them even more depressed.

Children will always have days or weeks that are better or worse than others for learning. If they have usually been working at the expected level, then drop back, without any other possible explanation, it would be appropriate to consider depression.  Even, worse, if their work goes backwards – maybe their reading age goes from 10 back to 9, for instance, – then depression should be seriously considered as a possible explanation.

Depression only affects a small number of young people, but the incidence is increasing. It’s worth thinking about if there is no other explanation for poor performance in school. Contact your family doctor or a child counsellor if you suspect your child is depressed. Once their mood is better, we’d love to help them get back on track with school- give us a call to discuss.