Two high school students discovered that they both suffered from severe depression while working together as editors on their school paper. Finding courage in their friendship, they began to investigate depressive illness among their peers.
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.
Excerpt: Depressed, but Not Ashamed By M. Halpert and E. Rosenfeld New York Times
“Most of our closest friends didn’t know that we struggled with depression. It just wasn’t something we discussed with our high school classmates. We found that we both had taken Prozac only when one of us caught a glimpse of a prescription bottle in a suitcase during a journalism conference last November. For the first time, we openly discussed our feelings and our use of antidepressants with someone who could relate. We took a risk sharing our experiences with depression, but in our honesty, we found a support system. We knew we had to take the idea further…We were not alone. We wondered why, with so many teenagers dealing with depression, it was still addressed in such impersonal ways.
As editors at our high school newspaper, we decided to fight against the stigma and proposed devoting a whole edition to personal stories from our peers who were suffering from mental illness. We wanted honesty with no anonymity. We knew that discussing mental health in this way would be edgy, even for our progressive community in Michigan. But we were shocked when the school administration would not allow us to publish the articles.
With the help of other journalism students, we interviewed teenagers from around our school district who shared stories of depression, eating disorders, homelessness, prescription abuse, insomnia and anxiety. Many discussed their personal struggles for the first time. All agreed to attach their full name — no anonymity or pseudonyms. Following online recommendations of the Student Press Law Center, we asked the parents of each student to sign consent forms for the articles.
As we were putting the stories together, the head of our school called us into her office to tell us about a former college football player from our area who had struggled with depression and would be willing to let us interview him. We wondered why she was proposing this story to us since he wasn’t a current high school student. We declined her suggestion. We didn’t want to replace these deeply personal articles about our peers with a piece about someone removed from the students. After we asked her why she was suggesting this, she told us that she couldn’t support our moving forward with the articles.” Read more.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video clip.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic of teen depression through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Stimulating background knowledge
Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about the topic. Next, have students look at the picture(s) in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Debrief as a class and list these ideas on the board.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: have students choose the synonym (the word closest in meaning) for the words in bold. Students can use the Word Map by Education Oasis for assistance.
1. Most of our closest friends didn’t know that we struggled with depression.
c. high spirits
2. We found that we both had taken Prozac.
b. a class
3. when one of us caught a glimpse of a prescription bottle.
a. no view at all
b. stare for a long time
c. a partial view
4. We took a risk sharing our experiences with depression.
5. 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18.
a. young persons
6. Depression was still addressed in such impersonal ways.
7. we decided to fight against the stigma.
8. We wanted honesty with no anonymity.
9. All agreed to attach their full name — no anonymity or pseudonyms.
a. last name
b. false name
c. given name
10. From an administrative perspective, this made some sense.
a. point of view
b. no view
Directions: Students choose the correct word or phrase to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.
1. Most of our closest friends didn’t know that we ___with depression.
2. In the United States, for ___between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death.
3. As editors at our high school newspaper, we decided to ___against the stigma.
4. We took a risk sharing our experiences with___.
5. We knew that discussing mental health in this way would be___.
6. Our school has a very ___atmosphere.
7. The feeling of being alone is closely ___to depression.
8. Depression does not___ mental weakness.
9. It is a disorder, often a ___of biology, not one of character.
10. By interviewing these teenagers for our newspaper, we tried to start___ in the fight against stigma.
Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error. Visit ESL Voices grammar section.
- Most of our friends didn’t know that we struggled with depression.
- We found that we both had take Prozac.
- We knew we had to take the idea further.
- We taken a risk sharing our experiences with depression.
- We were not alone.
- We decided to fight against the stigma.
- In our honesty, we finding a support system.
- We wanted honesty with no anonymity.
- It is her job to protect the students.
III. Post Reading Tasks
Reading Comprehension Check
Directions: Have students use this advanced organizer from Write Design to assist them with discussing or writing about the main idea and points from the article.
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
- The article states, “As editors at our high school newspaper, we decided to fight against the stigma and proposed devoting a whole edition to personal stories from our peers who were suffering from mental illness. We wanted honesty with no anonymity.” In your opinion was this a good idea?
- Why do you think the administration at the high school objected to the idea of students discussing their depression in the high school newspaper?
- The article states, “Though there are professionals to talk to, we feel it doesn’t compare to sharing your experiences with a peer who has faced similar struggles.” Explain in your own words what this statement means.
- Do the students in your country have problems with depression? If yes, are there student organizations that help them? If no, why not?
- All of the following disorders are very often related to depression. Choose one topic and share the results with the class: anxiety, insomnia, eating disorders, homelessness, prescription abuse.
IV. Listening Activity
Video Clip: Stanford’s Robert Sapolsky On Depression in U.S. (Full Lecture).
“Stanford University’s Professor Robert Sapolsky, posits that depression is the most damaging disease that you can experience. Right now it is the number four cause of disability in the US and it is becoming more common. Sapolsky states that depression is as real of a biological disease as is diabetes.”
While Listening Activities
Directions: Review the statements with students before the watching the video. As students listen to the video if a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- According to professor Sapolsky, depression is crippling and pervasive.
- Professor Sapolsky stated that it was not the worst disease you can get.
- Depression is more evident among the poor.
- It is an uncommon disease.
- Professor Sapolsky stated that about 15% of the people in the room (in the video) will have a major depression at some point.
- According to statistics depression is only in the U.S.
- World health organizations state that depression is the number 4 cause of disability.
- The two sciences related to depression are physiology and psychology.
- The three types of depression mentioned by professor Sapolsky were every day depression, a reactive depression, and a major depression.
- One cure for depression is taking a trip.
Questions for Discussion
Directions:Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions.
- After listening to this video has your personal idea of depression changed in any way? If yes, describe in what way. If no, describe your original viewpoint.
- Did you agree with everything that Professor Sapolsky? Discuss which ideas you agreed with and which ones you tended not to agree with. Explain why.
- With your group members, make up questions that you would like to ask Professor Sapolsky.