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School and Depression

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: September 2023

School is a place to grow, learn, and make friends. But for kids with depression, it can also be a tricky place.

Kids and teens who have major depressive disorder (MDD) may find it hard to do well in school because of their symptoms. Depression can make it hard to focus and complete assignments, leading to poor grades. Kids with MDD also may have a hard time making or keeping friends. They may feel sick when at school. All of these factors can make learning more challenging.1

Understanding IEPs and 504 plans

Individualized education plans (IEPs) and 504 plans are legal documents that make sure students get the help they need to do well in school.2

IEPs are tailored plans for students with disabilities, including mental health conditions. IEPs outline specific goals, accommodations, and services.2

Similarly, 504 plans provide accommodations for students with disabilities to ensure they can fully participate in school activities. These accommodations may include more time for assignments, a different seating arrangement, and access to counseling services.2

Accommodations that make a difference

Accommodations can greatly impact a student's experience at school. Some strategies that can help students with MDD include:1

  • Flexible due dates for assignments
  • Breaks during the school day
  • Access to a quiet space to get away from stress
  • Extended time for tests
  • Clear and structured routines
  • Regular check-ins with a school counselor

Telling school administrators about your child's depression will help ensure that they receive the support they need. Reach out to the school counselor, principal, or teachers to discuss your child's situation. Sharing information about your child's diagnosis, treatment plan, and specific needs can help the school create a supportive environment.1

Disclose what you are comfortable sharing. This will help you partner with the school to create a better school experience for your child with MDD.1

Parental support

Parents play a vital role in supporting their children with depression as they navigate school. It is essential to listen, offer emotional support, and create a safe space for talking. Encouraging your child to express their feelings and concerns can help them feel more understood and less isolated.1

Other ways you can help your child succeed in school include:1,2

  • Educate yourself – Learn about MDD, its symptoms, and how it might affect your child's school performance and overall well-being.
  • Connect with school experts – Establish a relationship with the school counselor, teachers, and administrators. Keep them informed about your child's progress and any changes in their condition.
  • Encourage self-care – Teach your child about self-care practices that can help with depression symptoms. Regular exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep are good habits to learn.
  • Advocate for your child – If your child's needs are not being addressed, advocate for them. Request meetings with the school to discuss their needs.

School can be both a place of learning and a place of challenges for students with MDD. By understanding the role of IEPs and 504 plans, asking for necessary accommodations, and supporting your child, you can empower your child to succeed academically and emotionally. You are not alone on this journey. Resources are available to help you navigate the path to a brighter future for your child.1,2

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