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Supporting a teenager with depression- how do you continue their education?

Community Member

Hi, I am caring for a teenager with depression and other parents experiencing this may relate to problems  i encounter in trying to keep him engaged with school.  The education process requires motivation and this is absent as part of depression.  There is some understanding from teachers but they are busy and generally overlook the needs of a student that is absent. A student with a physical illness will get sympathy, phone calls about how they are, cards from the tute groups, facebook posts saying " get well" .  A student with depression is ignored ( my experience anyway) .  Maybe unable to explain to teachers and other students why they are absent or not able to get work done because  of the stigma attached to mental health illness.  

Meanwhile, life is busy for teenagers, the expectation is they progress through school years, participate in sport, attend parties and have lots of friends. Also that they will know what they are going to do on leaving school, be able to select subjects and plan career pathways.   So the teenager that is unwell with depression is left out, left behind and deals with reminders of this exclusion from social media, ignorant teachers and even extended family who might ask something simple like " are you going to the formal, what are you going to do when you finish school, do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend? ". 

So I feel sad for what my teenage child is missing and feel angry at times that our school is ignorant of his needs.

i don't know that there is a solution but if you have read this, thanks for "listening" .  




14 Replies 14

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi DM, welcome here to beyond Blue forums

That discrimination between those with mental illness to those with physical illness isnt confined to teenagers. It's with everyone.

Others might have different ideas. My view is that regardless of the importance of education, stress indicators in the teenager should not be ignored. I'd rather a teen that has depression leave school to seek a job if their education places too much pressure on them. Then again, seeking work, if there is pressure there ie income need is critical, can be bad also.


In a chair they came to care

Injury they well aware

Lift and ask as I a bloody good bloke

Sometimes I wished I had legs of spoke....

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi DM,

Reading your post made me think about what my parents must have experienced when I was a teenager. To cut a long story short, I lost my boyfriend to suicide at age 15 I suffered depression and PTS. I was very unwell, and this was back it 1995 when mental illness, especially in teenagers, was much more unheard of than today.

I guess if I tell you what my parent's decisions were, and what eventuated for me, it may help you, your son, and possibly other parents. My parents took me out of school for the first 6 weeks during which time I was difficult to console, let alone focus on study. I went back to school and my parents had arranged that I would see the student counsellor every day. Unfortunately I was still unable to concentrate, I had little motivation, and being around friends was challenging as they had no capacity to comprehend what I was going through. I had many days of absence and struggled to keep up with the work load.

I stayed for the 3 months until year 10 had concluded. During the Christmas break my condition was rapidly deteriorating. My parents chose to keep me out of school and eventually decided to admit me to a hospital and subsequently a Psychiatric hospital. It took 6 months for me to get to a point where I was able to reconnect with my studies and friends again. I recommenced year 11 in the second half of the year, taking one day off per week to attend an outpatient program. By the end of year 11 you can imagine that my grades were no where near enough to continue to year 12. However my parents had already arranged a special consideration with the school. This meant that regardless of my mark I was to receive the average grade for all the students at my school in year 11 that year.

This class average meant that I could go into year 12 the following year without having to repeat year 11. The benefit for me was that the pressure to achieve had been removed. I completed year 12 as I had received the appropriate care, and was continuing to see a Psychologist outside of school hours. I wasn't the highest achiever but I did manage to pass. Looking back, taking me out of school so I had the time to get well was the best decision my parents could have made. Up until last year I was working as a Senior Trainer for a luxury goods company, travelling around the country and abroad.

I guess my message is that despite the stigma from the school, there are still opportunities for your son, and success is possible.


Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

I know exactly how you feel. Mine has missed over half the first semester of Yr 12 and has only done 1 week this one. Disengagement with other students and teachers has only made the depression and anxiety worse. She will not graduate this year. That is ok, she can do it at any time in the next 5 years.

It is more important to get well and motivation come back. It is extremely difficult to understand for others, especially other teenagers. So hard for those who are struggling. Keep trying to help, don't give up and reassure them that it will be OK!


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

dear DM, I am sorry that it's been 4 days or so for you to receive any replies, because it makes the person feel as though no one cares, but this is not true, because all posts we take as being ones that need our help, so we take them seriously.

I can relate to how you are feeling, because the school I went to was a private one, and depression was frowned upon,'as no one who goes to this school doesn't ever have depression', so it wasn't recognised as an authentic illness, and always told 'to get over it'.

Education in regards to depression is well and truly neglected, and the hierarchy in charge of the subjects are too old fashioned, as their principle is to not change what has been happening for years, 'so let sleeping dogs lie', boy oh boy how wrong they are.

I'm not too sure how we can overcome this problem, but something needs to be done, or rather 'needs' is not the appropriate word here, it should be a 'must', so the education department needs a kick up the ********** just to put it lightly.

So there are a couple of ways to try and change their thinking, firstly is to obtain all the printed material from BB which can be done by clicking on 'resources' at the top of the page and order a couple of pamphlets from BB, take a photocopy if needed and present them to the headmaster, and ask him/her if they have actually experienced depression in life, either themselves, friend or family member, because two to one on it would have happened somewhere.

Tell him/her knows if any of his students does he believe has depression, and if they say no then tell him to wake up, because this would be impossible, and try and organise an Ambassador from BB to go and talk to the whole school, teachers as well, and let them know the phone numbers to contact, and suggest that the school's counsellor be taught about what this illness does, because although they are someone for the students to talk to, they definitely need a shake up.

It has to empathised that their days ahead of them will entail days of sadness, hurt and feeling of being no one to talk to, marriage trouble, job trouble and not forgetting about them when suddenly they feel nothing.

I would like to continue this, so I really hope that you can reply back to us, as well as if others want to comment on this. L Geoff. x

Hi Wornoutmum, 

I initially posted my comments as I am feeling worn out, so I can relate to  your username!  I find it difficult to know what to do to help my son. I know that each day I will be required to motivate and to carefully question negative comments. I will need to come up with a new plan if things aren't working out. I will have to politely discuss my son's  illness and absence from school with generally ignorant teaching staff who equate his inability to attend,  with laziness.  And the worst of each day is the sense of failure I have when as a Mother, I can't find a way to make my son feel better- happy.

However, I understand depression and I know he will feel better in the future and this will just be a bad patch that we look back on and learn from.  I am reassured to read that you say it is "ok" for your daughter not to finish Year 12 this year as there is time in next 5 years.  The reply from AGrace, thankyou, similarly suggests that teens need timeout to heal and then sort out the education.

My experience is that paying large amounts of money to a private school ( as Geoff   points out in his reply)  doesn't buy greater understanding.  Elite schools pride themselves on academic merit and sporting success.  That is where resources are directed.  Students with depression  and anxiety fall through the cracks, their needs are overlooked.   I am told that if my son isn't in the classroom , they can't teach him but I doubt they would say that to a student in a wheelchair - "you didn't make it up the stairs to your second floor classroom so we couldn't teach you." The clumsy point that I'm attempting to make is that the school isn't willing or able to see the problems my son has and their ignorance is discriminatory.

ok, that's my ranting done for today.

Again, thanks for "listening"



Thanks for your reply.

I wasn't concerned about no flood of replies but am thankful to you for thinking I might be. I am keen to discuss schools and depression/ anxiety.  It is not acceptable that students  cannot find greater awareness and understanding of the problems they face.   So keep up the good work in spreading the message BB

Determined Mother


dear DM, thanks so much for your reply.

The school that I went to sends out a highly colourful magazine every quarter high-lighting all the achievements, both academically as well as sports feats, reports from the headmaster, improvements to the school etc., so I decided to write back to them and suggest that they talk about past students who have succumbed to depression or perhaps past students who have taken their own life, because there is no doubt that this has happened, but I didn't receive any reply so I gather that this topic was taboo.

Students from this school never get depressed, so they believe, how wrong they are, and would never publish anything about this very important topic, this is how shallow the elite feel. L Geoff. x

Hey Determined, rant as much as you want! I really feel like it today. The latest from my daughter's school is to cancel her enrolment so she doesn't fail. I don't want to do this but can see the merit in it. However then she has nothing to come back to if she starts to recover. I don't know. She hasn't gotten out of bed, refused to take meds for 4 days, Oh life is grand! I am going out to garden and make myself feel better. Wait for my husband to get home. He has it too. Life sucks!


Community Member
You’ll see from the date of this post, nothing has changed because I am in the same position with my son in Year 11. He won’t call complete because he won’t/can’t even get out of bed in the mornings. His absences in Years 9/10 were completely overlooked by the school as I have since been told because he was meeting minimum requirements. They say now he isn’t engaging with coursework (all online) even when he is not at school. A child with a physical illness could do this but one with men