Talking about depression 

2 sessions approx. 1 hour long

Create a safe and positive learning environment by agreeing ground rules for the session.

Download the session Talking About Depression

Use this session with ‘support networks’, ‘asking for help’, ‘what is emotional health?’ and ‘ups and downs of the day’

In this session we will learn:

  • to recognise some symptoms of depression
  • some facts about depression
  • to challenge the stigma around depression
  • to consider that everyone is different and reacts differently to situations




Digital resources


Session 1

  1. Explain: Today’s lesson will be about understanding what depression is, identifying some of its characteristics and to looking at ways you might support or help someone if they appear to be suffering from depression.
  2. Look at the various slides and ask if you can tell if any of these people have depression. Think in pairs and share. Is there any way of knowing if someone is depressed? Share ideas and thoughts.
  3. Draw two columns on the board headed ‘Actions’ and ‘Words’. Ask the class what they think someone with depression may say or do, and make notes in the appropriate columns. Depression can affect anyone. It is one of the most common psychological problems and affects almost every one at some point in their lives, either through personal experience, or someone we know. We all have an idea already of what we think depression looks like, but we are going to think in more detail about some of the things that might cause depression.
  4. Introduce the idea of three categories of things that may trigger depression: social, psychological and physical. Briefly explain what is meant by these terms. Social – anything to do with society; where you live, or your close relationships with family, friends or work colleagues. Psychological – how you think and feel; anxieties or worries. Physical – anything to do with your general physical health.
  5. Divide students into small groups. Hand out a set of the ‘Causes of depression’ cards to each group. Ask them to arrange the cards into the three categories of social, psychological and physical. This list is not comprehensive, and some cards may apply to more than one category. The exercise is to start students thinking and talking.


Recognising depression

Get the class to feed back briefly about the symptoms of depression they have written down. Explain that certain symptoms, if long lasting, can indicate depression, as opposed to experiencing these momentarily.

They include:

  • a loss of interest and enjoyment in life
  • a lack of drive and motivation, making even simple tasks difficult
  • fatigue
  • self-harm
  • tearfulness or a complete lack of emotion
  • agitation and restlessness or apathy and lethargy
  • loss or gain in appetite or weight
  • sleeplessness or excessive sleeping
  • loss of outward affection
  • loss of self-confidence
  • avoiding people
  • irritability or erratic mood swings
  • feeling useless, inadequate, hopeless, worthless
  • pre-occupation with real or imaginary aches, pains and illness
  • feeling isolated, lonely, self-reproachful or guilty
  • an increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • poor concentration
  • thoughts of suicide – the idea that ‘other people would be better off without me’.


Session 2

True or False

1. Read out the first true or false slide: Students can respond by either raising their hands, moving from one side of the room to the other, or by holding up fact/fiction cards.

Read out the parts in bold and then the answers, once you have heard the students’ answers.

True or false? Depression happens when something bad goes on in your life, such as a divorce, the death of a loved one, or losing your job.

False. Sometimes depression can happen even when life is going well. Depression can be set off by things going wrong in your life, but that isn’t always the case. Depression might be associated with a chemical imbalance in the brain.

True or false? If you can’t snap out of your depression, it means you’re weak.

False. Being able to talk about depression and seek support is a sign of strength.

True or false? Depression means that you have something wrong with your character.

False. It doesn’t mean you aren’t strong enough emotionally. It’s a real medical condition, like diabetes or arthritis.

True or false? If you wait long enough, your depression will always go away.

False. If you’re suffering from depression, it might not just go away. For some people, if it isn’t treated, their depression can last months, or even years.

True or false? Only suicidal people need antidepressants.

False. Antidepressants are not just for people who think about suicide. Antidepressants might help people who are depressed feel better.

True or false? People who suffer from depression need medication.

True/False. Sometimes medication can help people to cope with depression temporarily or in the long term. This is unique to each individual and you would need professional advice to consider whether this is best for you if you needed help.

True or false? People who are depressed can be happy sometimes.

True. It Is not a fixed state.

True or false? Depression can go away and then come back again.

True. Sometimes it does go away for good.

2. Use a beach ball as a visual aid for this part – you could use a football, but will need a pump to re-inflate it. The beach ball, when it is full of air, represents how we feel when everything is going well, and we are feeling happy. The ball bounces when you drop it on the floor. When we are feeling well, we have an ability to ‘bounce back’ when small things in the day don’t go well. However, there are some things in life that ‘let the air out’ of our beach-ball. These can be big changes such as moving house or school, loss, divorce, separation or the death of someone close, arguments with friends, serious ill health, lack of money, poor relationships or it could be feeling low, feeling sad, losing an important football match, a friendship problem, finding school stressful etc. – as you describe some of these things, let some of the air out of the ball. When you drop the ball on the floor now, it doesn’t bounce back. Explain that depression is like that – it is really difficult to ‘bounce back’ from, and to feel well again. Sometimes depression is temporary and short term, it could return or it may not, it could go on for a long time, it is different for everyone who experiences it.

3. Explain to the students: “If you notice any of the symptoms of depression in any of your friends or family, here are a few things that you can do:

  • Offer support by listening carefully and offering to be there for them
  • Invite the person to join you in activities that you know he or she used to enjoy.
  • Take comments about suicide seriously, and seek professional advice.
  • Encourage the person to make an appointment with a doctor. Maybe go along for support.
  • Encourage the person not to put off doing important work. Offer to do it together.
  • Encourage the person to get a good seven or eight hours sleep every night.
  • Help the person to plan their day or week to gain a sense of control.
  • If they are given a treatment plan or medicine from the doctor, encourage them to stick with it as improvement may take several weeks.
  • Encourage the person to try relaxation methods such as deep breathing, walking or other exercise.
  • Encourage the person to take some time every day to do something they enjoy.

After all the cards have been read out, the ball should be fully inflated. Emphasise that recovery from depression can take quite a while but people can and do recover. If you want to give the students something to take away, you could buy them all a small bouncy ball to represent ‘hope’ – it will serve as a reminder of the lesson.

4. Summarise: Everyone can feel low at times. We can feel down when we’ve suffered a loss, bereavement, the break-up of a relationship, or a traumatic event. Normally we will work through our feelings about what has happened and come to terms with it over time. For some people the cause of their depression may not be so obvious – or the level of their depression may seem out of proportion to the event that appears to have triggered it. If we or someone we’re close to are feeling depressed or hopeless we need to think about what we might do about it.

Make sure that students know where to go for help if they want to talk more about depression, or about any issues in their life that may be causing them concern.

Use the ball and throw it to students asking for one thing they have learned today. After they have said something, ask them to throw the ball back to you. You then throw it to someone else.



Have I changed how I think about depression?


Links and Learning Journeys

This session links to: Building resilience | Helping my friends| Finding a way forward | Positive thinking | Talking helps

It is also part of a suggested learning journey:

Learning journey: my emotional health: Ups and downs of the day | Talking about depression | Expressing feelings (short) | Talking helps it’s hard to say (short) | Finding a way forward | Positive thinking | Who are Samaritans?

Make sure young people know what support is available and how to access this support.