How to talk to a school counselor about depression?

In this guide we are going to briefly discuss the steps in getting the help you need if you suspect yourself of being depressed by talking to a counsellor at school. 

We will also discuss how schools tend to support mental health and what counsellors do to help students manage their mental well-being in the midst of academic demands.

How to talk to a school counselor about depression?

In brief, some of the steps you can take to approach your school counsellor for depression include:

  • Check out school websites for information
  • Talk to the front desk or the school nurse
  • Set up an appointment 
  • Acknowledge your own courage
  • Understand confidentiality
  • Understand your power and rights
  • Speak your truths

Depression

Depression is a serious mental health problem that affects a large population of adults, children, adolescents, and the elderly. It is prevalent in all cultures, races, and sexes. 

Depression is a worldwide problem big enough for experts to call it an epidemic that costs the well-being of approximately 300 million people- it takes away a person’s sense of self, their happiness, their sense of power and control, and their ability to function. 

It is debilitating and can cost a person who is affected by depression to lose their family, their relationships, their friends, their jobs, and an overall good quality of life. 

Depression is not just a passing sadness or a phase of low moods after failures and disappointments. A person who is depressed can find it difficult to get out of bed- they are easily fatigued and tired. 

Insomnia or hypersomnia, diet and weight changes, chronic physical pain are also some symptoms that are prevalent in depression. People with depression also tend to withdraw socially and tend to be unable to meet the demands of their lives.

To make matters worse, people with depression are constantly haggled by thoughts of their own low sense of self worth and feelings of hopelessness about their lives and their futures.  

Depression can impact a person’s ability to focus and can impair their work and productivity which further propagates their sense of low self worth and hopelessness. This sense of hopelessness can even lead to thoughts of suicde and suicidal ideation.

In students, both in school and colleges between the ages of 15-25 are part of the population most susceptible to depression. The stress of various transitions in their bodies during puberty and the psychological identity formation at this age make them vulnerable to depression.

These factors along with the academic stress of having to perform well, get into college, become financially independent, build their careers, and for college students- get adjusted to the new environments- can add to the stress which most people are not equipped to handle. 

Adolescents and young adults are more susceptible when they have a family history of mental illness, unsupportive family, a history of experience abuse- physical or sexual, non-confroming gender identity and sexual preferences, and unaccepting peer relationships.

Schools and mental health

For most adolescents, school is the next important institution apart from the family. It is where they socialize the most and their psychosocial growth is most dependent on the environment of the school system.

Research estimates that at any given time at least 20% of young students are in need of mental health service interventions and only 1 out of 5 receive the help they need. This makes it very important that schools provide their students with the support necessary. 

Over the years, the need for interventions for school students that is readily accessible has been recognised and action has been taken to set up counselling programs or mental health clinics within school and college systems. 

A crucial part of these initiatives is the school counsellors themselves. Let us take a look at how counsellors help students.

How Counselors Help Students Manage Their Mental Health

In the past, teachers have often taken the role to support their students academically and with other life issues; however, it is with no doubt that teachers may not have the necessary skill to help a student with mental health issues. 

So, school counselors become a crucial part of the education system. They often spearhead an effort to collaborate with teachers, administrators, parents, and social workers to ensure that each student receives the care necessary to succeed in their academic and personal lives. 

They often provide one to one counselling with the students that are referred to them by the teachers or administration or those who seek support on their own. They are also tasked with enhancing the awareness of mental health .

School counselors are well-connected within the school community and the outside community as well. So they have been trained to refer students to outside resources like substance abuse treatment centers, professional therapists, and even health clinics, and even protective services in the case of abuse and neglect. 

They also provide resources and support for teachers, administrators, and parents with the goal to help the students do better- mentally, emotionally, and academically.

The bottomline is that these school counsellors are trained to handle cases that involve students with mental health issues like depression. They would have seen and noticed various students such as yourself in the past and would be prepared to listen and support you. 

Reaching out to your school counsellor: A step by step guide

Now that you know a little bit more about what a school counsellor has been trained to do, here is a guide to support you as you gear yourself up to reach out to the school counselor.

Step 1: Check out the school website 

Various schools have different policies when it comes to mental health interventions. Your school would possibly have details about what it is doing to support the students mentally and personally. 

The website can even have an action button to lead you to make appointments with the school counsellor or a number you can call. 

Step 2: Talk to the front desk or the nurse

If you have not been able to find a contact number or information about the school counselling process, take to a secretary at the school that can help you book an appointment. 

If you do not want to get the front desk involved, talk to your school nurse or a trusted teacher who will most definitely be able to direct you to the counselor’s office. 

Step 3: Step up an appointment 

ONce you have found a way you can set an appointment, consider making an appointment with them at a time that is convenient for you- usually counsellors work around the student’s timings. 

During lunch before and after school could me times you can consider making an appointment. You can also take the additional step of requesting that the appointment be kept confidential- usually they are- so that you aren’t summoned over the intercom. 

Step 4: Pat yourself on the back

Seeing a counsellor for your suspected depression can be nerve wracking because to be able to tell them what is happening to you, you might have to open up about various aspects of your life. 

Talking about things you have held onto for a long time to a complete stranger can be scary and uncomfortable. The fact that you have taken the step to help yourself needs to be acknowledged. 

So take a moment to do that and at the same time acknowledge your anxiety before the first session and understand that it is normal to feel that way. Your counsellor would probably tell you the same thing. 

Step 5: Understand confidentiality

If one of the reasons why you want to see your school counselor as opposed to seeking help from a professional outside of the school is because you do not want other people to know, you have to understand that confidentiality that school counsellors are meant to honor does not cover certain circumstances. 

If you are suspected to be of potential harm to self and others, the counsellor is required to inform your parents. Another circumsa=tance is when there is risk of sucide or there are signs of abuse. 

The school counsellor might also suggest that you bring in your parents to have a family session if you are observed to be depressed and in need of clinical treatments. This is done to educate your parents and advocate for your right to mental well-being.

Step 5: Understand your power

Within a counselling relationship, even if your counsellor is decades older- you are an equal when it comes to your rights as a human being. With that in mind, do not hesitate to speak your mind and request for an alternate support system if the counselor and you do not click.

If you are uncomfortable with group meetings- some counsellors work in groups- express your concerns and request for one to one meetings. 

The frequency of meeting your school counsellor is also mutually decided depending on the topic being discussed at hand. So you also have a say at when and how many times you’d like to see them.

Step 6: Speak your truth

With how common depression has become amongst the population, there is still a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about the disorder. People think that if you are depressed you have to be sad and in bed the whole day. These sorts of stereotypes often cause depression to go by undetected. 

You might be able to go to school, do your homework and assignments and still be depressed. So when you meet your counsellor, speak your truth and your experiences of your own mental health. 

You might be depressed and at the same time you might not be depressed by still struggling with poor mental health. Your school counsellor can help you make sense of what is happening to you and guide you through various strategies to help you cope. 

It all starts with speaking your truth. 

Conclusion

In this guide we discussed the role of a school counsellor and the prevalence of depression and mental health issues amongst students. We have also explored a brief guide on how to get intouch with your school counsellor. 

References

Schoolcounselor.org

kidshealth.org

Frequently asked questions related to “how to talk to a school counselor about depression?”

Can you talk to your school counselor about depression?

When you need to talk to someone, your school counselor (sometimes called a guidance counselor) can be a great place to start. They can help you figure out what is happening to you emotionally and mentally and also refer you to other professionals if you need clinical treatment. 

Can school counselors help with anxiety?

School counselors, who are appropriately trained, can provide effective treatment to adolescent students with anxiety. It has been observed that the benefit of meeting with school counsellors is comparable to those obtained by specialized clinical psychologists. 

How do school counselors help with mental health?

School counselors advocate for the mental health needs of all students by the following role and responsibilities they take up:

  • Offering instruction that enhances awareness of mental health
  • Addressing academic, career and social/emotional development;
  • Providing short-term counseling interventions such as one to one counselling, or group counseling
  • Providing referrals to community resources for long-term support

Are school counselors mental health professionals?

School counsellors are School-based mental health professionals that address both the academic and mental health needs of children and adolescents. They are trained and equipped to be able to psycheducat, identify, and also in some cases treat students with adjustment problems, depression, and anxiety. 

Can a counselor tell your parents?

Counselors have an ethical obligation to keep information disclosed by students confidential whenever possible. However, if the student is a minor most laws will require them to reach out to the parents and guardian of the students in the case of abuse, self harm, risk of suicde, and harm to others. 

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