depression and middle school

Middle school places a lot of pressure on students to fit in. It can be difficult for pre-teens with depression to feel comfortable reaching out for support from their peers, if they are worried about being judged. Many middle schoolers don’t have the emotional vocabulary to understand why they’re feeling the way they’re feeling, let alone talk about it with others and expect them to understand. This prevents many people from trying to deal with their symptoms of depression in middle school, even if it means feeling isolated and struggling for a longer period of time. 

Why is Depression so Prevalent in Middle School?

  • School Pressure. Middle school classes become more about critical thinking skills than learning the basics of reading, writing, and math, meaning assignments become more complex and require greater levels of focus. Students struggle to stay motivated when they begin to switch classes and choose their own electives, rather than being contained in a single-teacher classroom. 
  • Relationships. Part of what makes transitioning into middle school so hard is maintaining friendships while having different class schedules. Even if your daughter has a few close friends, conflicting schedules can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Social struggles within friend groups are common in middle school, as people are maturing at different rates. 
  • Bullying. Bullying is directly correlated with adolescent depression in school, as it may lead to school anxiety or school refusal to avoid being bullied. Bullying typically peaks in middle school, where students are most concerned with popularity and fitting in. By high school, friend groups expand according to individual interests rather than black and white categories, which suggests that they are also less exclusive.

Does Depression Look Different In Middle School?

Symptoms of depression are similar for all ages, but younger children may struggle to articulate feelings of depression the same way older people might. Some signs your middle schooler may be depressed may include:

  • Talking about feeling sad or lonely, despite having friends
  • Having a negative outlook on life in general
  • Loses interest in activities or says things are “boring”
  • Struggling in school or in afterschool activities
  • Spending free time on the couch or on a device, rather than with other people
  • Changes in eating habits

The Risk of Depression Through the School Years

Research suggests that depression, more so than ADHD, conduct issues, or learning disorder, is a major risk factor for school struggles. Depressed students often have a hard time staying present in the classroom, connecting with their peers, and setting future goals. Many young people with depression struggle to see the meaning behind going to school and have lost interest in applying themselves. 

According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, “older teens struggling with depression are more than twice as likely to drop out of high school as peers without that mental illness or those who recovered from a bout of depression earlier in life.” 

Age-Specific Treatment 

Reaching out for help for signs of depression early on can help prevent greater consequences later in life, but going to a treatment program for people of all ages can expose girls to negative coping skills or recovery concepts they are not emotionally mature enough to grasp. As a lot of treatment programs are designed for older teens, the therapeutic approach they take is often geared towards helping teens develop the skills to launch into independence and making healthier decisions around substances or relationships–issues many younger teens haven’t even thought about yet. 

When considering treatment options for depression, keep in mind that middle school girls benefit from treatment programs where they are surrounded by other people their age. Therapeutic boarding schools for middle schoolers use developmentally-appropriate strategies, as an empathetic model of care, that focuses on learning through recreation and relationships. Due to the age of the students, Asheville Academy strives to maintain a home-like environment and encourages active family participation to help them adjust to our supportive community. 

Therapeutic Boarding Schools Offer a Positive School Climate

For many middle schoolers, they consider their school environment one of the biggest factors contributing to feelings of depression. While a lot of people struggle with the awkwardness of middle school hallways, struggling with depression can get in the way of finding resources at a traditional school and can get in the way of learning. Therapeutic boarding schools that offer accredited academics help students rediscover motivation for learning through experiential activities in smaller classrooms. 

Asheville Academy Can Help

Asheville Academy is an accredited Therapeutic Boarding School for middle school girls 10-14. Our students commonly struggle with anxiety, depression, ADHD, learning differences, attachment, and other emotional and behavioral issues. Our program is structured to offer academic support, community service opportunities, and recreation which helps girls develop responsibility and healthier habits. This program is focused on emotion regulation and building confidence, communication skills, and social skills that will help students transition back into their home and school life.

Call 800-264-8709 for more information. We can help your family today!

Cat brings more than thirty years of experience making an impact in the lives of adolescents. Cat has developed multiple programs helping children, teens, and young adults in a variety of settings and with a diverse range of diagnoses. She has dedicated her career to behavioral health and is honored to be part of the passionate team at Asheville Academy. She recognizes how delicate this age is and is proud of the role she and her team play in helping girls grow and prosper.