Post date: Jun 25, 2018 3:34:12 AM

by: Adelaida Q. Valenzuela

Head Teacher II COBNHS

“Everyone feels “blue” or “low” once in a while. It’s a normal healthy reaction to the disappointments, losses, and separations that occur in everyone’s life. But it is one thing to be down in the dumps and quite another to be depressed. Sadness is normal, but depression is a major illness.”

Dr. Tyrone M. Reyes is right in his “An Apple A Day” September 16 article. To be sad and to be depressed are two different things. The latter is worse than the former; attention should be given to people who get depressed.

“Depression prevents pleasure, saps energy, and interferes with daily life. It is a complex disorder that has many causes. Heredity (“blue genes”), imbalances in neurotransmitters (chemicals that brain cells use to communicate with one another, such as serotonin and norepinephrine), hormones, and life experiences are among the factors that play a role. Anyone can get depressed, and many of us do,” he adds.

Unfortunately, the percentage of people who get more depressed goes to younger generations. Surveys show that most of the children born in the 21st millennium tend to be MISERS: people who live poor so they die rich. They further reveal that many a teenager agrees that suicidal tendencies lurk in the corner. A teen usually finds many reasons to be sad about the “unfortunate” things happening around him.

The challenge for teachers nowadays then is to give students enough reasons to be happy. The moment children enter a classroom, they entrust their future to the teacher.

Gabay Guro, a non-profit organization, recently revealed on their TV advertisement the number of teachers that molds an individual before he becomes a professional: approximately 200. The group shared a very important message: The along-the-way process or “the climb” is the most crucial determinant of success. This suggests that if, along the way, the child stops or worse quits, he may not succeed where he is best at.

Rainier Allan Ronda’s “Educators: Children’s resilience vs depression should be looked into” Pilipino Star Ngayon article in May 2, 2013 shares an alarming message.

He refers to children born from the mid- 1990s to the present as “Generation Z” and alerts all parents of the said batch to get more involved in their children’s character formation through Dr. Queena Lee-Chua’s advice in her “Gen Z from a Psych Perspective” talk. (Chua is a Psychology associate professor at Ateneo de Manila University.)

Ronda cites financial difficulties in the family as a main reason of suicidal incidences from the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) “Educating the Alpha Generation” gathering in May 1 and considers it as an indication of the lack of resilience among young Filipino children. The NAST tried “to identify policy recommendations to support paradigm shifts in teaching and learning that needs to be done to address the unique needs of the younger generation or children aged 6 years to 16 years.”

On the other hand, Ronda further acknowledges Chua’s findings in her 2004 “resilience study”: the importance of parenting and treatment of “underlying family problems which may cover finances, romantic problems with their girlfriends and/ or boyfriends, and low grades.” The latter says that tuition and lack of money is not the only problem; the challenge is motivating children and “teaching them to handle failure early in life, as well as set beliefs about success.” High expectations can then be set for children, but should only be met while properly guided by parents, their positive role models.

More pieces of advice come from Chua: setting beliefs about success is attainable by maximizing potential, “praise effort, not ability” and “parents are parents, not barkada”.

Parents must address the diagnosis of a seeming problem as soon as one symptom of depression shows up. They must never be lenient as barkada in preventing anything worse to happen.

Dr. Reyes states: “Doctors have little trouble spotting full-blown depression. These people are withdrawn, lethargic, preoccupied with themselves, and plagued by thoughts of illness and death. They often neglect their appearance, hygiene, and nutrition. Physical symptoms are also common, including problems with sleep, appetite, and bowel function. Aches and pains are common, as is weight loss. But if symptoms are atypical, depression can be hard to diagnose.”

Because depressed people have impaired ability to think, concentrate or make decisions, diminished self-esteem with feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt and recurrent thought of death and suicide, teachers (as loco parentis) must think of the best means to help students overcome depression while it still is mild.

In dealing with what Shakespeare calls as “the sad companion, dull-eyed melancholy” and Winston Churchill’s “black dog: that turned up unexpectedly”, teachers should discover the Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and Robin Williams talent potentials within students but never let them suffer the same deaths that these celebrities had. They can resort to talk therapies, medications, supplements and lifestyle modification. Teachers should make time for these to achieve the desired results. The simplest method is paying attention to teaching techniques though: with every choice (of method) that they make in activating students’ schema and ensuring retention of learning, they can be positive agents of change.

Rodan notes Professor Alleli Ester C. Domingo’s challenge to educators to adopt teaching techniques that adjust to the Gen Z’s attachment to gadgets (tablet computers and smartphones), TV and the Internet. (Domingo is the deputy director of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Physics of UP Los Baňos.)

The latter highlights learners’ engagement with computer gaming, texting, social networking and watching TV as a big factor in the learning process. This is true to many classroom settings nowadays. If teachers do not determine their students’ interests and relate these passions to recent trends, esp. in technology (since the Gen Z are often known to be digital species or individuals born and “made” in the Age of Computers/ Technology), they may discourage proactive participation and values development. Talking about depression, gadgets may make or break children.

She shared that at UPLB, modules are developed to “exploit the positive values promoted by the current popular massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG)” like Defense of the Ancients (DOTA). The game may help improve problem solving skills, decision- making under uncertainty and competitiveness.

Having enlightened with the “what” and “how” of depression, the proponent highly suggests to educators and school heads/ directors to consider every name in their class records and directories. “Every child is special.” Every child has to ask questions and get answers from people they look up to on a daily basis.

For every Juan/ John and Juana/ Jane, a pro-positivity campaign must be introduced, implemented and maintained inside the classroom. This has to start with the gratitude attitude. Every morning or at a particular/ desired time of the day, students should be asked questions regarding home and all the positive things happening around them and should come up with THANK-YOU lists. Teachers must make sure that their students and they themselves do things properly. This positive effort will make students feel that they are wanted, needed and connected to the larger world; the material will touch their feelings and will invest on stories that connect them to the value of family, friends, etc. Five entries that start with “I am thankful for…” may do at first then the list must be longer each time. This will only take two to five minutes.

Then, teachers may attend to their teaching techniques by giving their motivational, evaluation and enrichment activities a second thought. One by one, gems have to surface but more importantly, they must be able to pinpoint opportunities also and turn these to gems by providing solutions. They should go back to and check on their teaching goals and objectives. After all, teachers should be the best visionaries. They should remember: “Dreams can be fulfilled only when they’re defined.”

Helen Keller posits: “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” There will always be solutions to problems.


· Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Healthy Aging, March 2013