PSHE KS3 / GCSE: Depression - Eleanor’s Story
Narrated in first person, this film explores what it can be like to battle with depression and suicidal thoughts and the effect it can have on your life.
Eleanor’s testimony is open and honest, and creates an intimate portrait into life at school when you are battling with your mental health.
She traces the root of her low mood to the change in her routine in the move from primary to secondary school and the feeling of losing control.
She felt isolated and began withdrawing further and further, until she couldn’t even see any help or hope on the other side.
She was alone with her depression.
Her mood dropped to the point where she was regularly having suicidal thoughts and couldn’t make sense of her emotions.
It was CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which ultimately helped Eleanor the most, and so the film highlights some key forms of help which can be really useful for someone in that position, including her CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) key workers.
Eleanor’s story touches on many issues that affect young people in the transition from primary to secondary school.
It really illuminates how a change like this can totally turn someone’s world upside-down.
From a new environment, to a heavy workload and new friends, changes can affect people very differently.
It also raises the issue of how hard it can be to try and function with a mental health problem when you are not receiving the right care.
The feelings can be hard to process, it can be hard to function, to see you friends, or even just get out of bed, you can even feel judged by others.
In this way, Eleanor’s story acts as a powerful lens into what this can be like.
Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, we strongly advise teacher viewing before watching with your pupils.
Key Stage 3
Eleanor’s glass box image is very powerful.
Pupils could be given the net of a cube.
On one side (which will be the inside where Eleanor was in her depression) pupils could write how she was feeling, i.e. the symptoms of depression. (They may need to research this first to extend their understanding from Eleanor’s experience).
She said she knew hope was on the outside of the box but it was clouded up and she could only see herself.
On the other side of the net (i.e. the outside) write or draw the good things you would like Eleanor to see if she were in the glass box.
What would you want to see in your future that gives you hope and motivation to look after your own health and wellbeing?
Pupils could then make the box and discuss how the depression has now been closed in.
Keeping feelings and depressive thoughts closed in like this will not allow the person to get through their mental illness.
Thoughts and feelings need to have ways to be expressed, so talking to someone you trust is a good start.
Being able to visualise positive, enjoyable, happy things in your future is a way to train the mind to be positive.
Eleanor talks about CBT.
Why not go into more detail about this, what the therapy does and discuss the benefits of this as a form of therapy.
Students could research into the local and national support available.
Key Stage 4
Students could try practising breathing techniques to help calm their minds in order to observe their thoughts as they arise.
If they can do this easily they are better able to recognise thoughts that can drag them down or trigger low mood or depression, press their own pause button and then change these thoughts for a different outcome.
Practise giving students a scenario, they identify the thoughts in one of the characters and speculate as to the emotions that the character may be feeling and what the consequences might be if this thoughts and feelings combination are allowed to continue.
This could be represented in a flow chart.
Can they suggest a different thought process that would trigger different emotions and lead to more positive consequences/outcomes? A new flow chart.
Students could explore/research the extent and causes of depression and how broad these can be.
Look into the symptoms of depression and the signs you might spot in yourself or others.
This short film is suitable for teaching PSHE at KS3 and GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Modern Studies at National 4 and 5 in Scotland.