Psychology of Adolescence

An important video identifying signs of adolescent depression.

5 Signs of Teenage Depression.
By: Psych2Go.
Video source : YouTube.

Prior to commencing ‘Psychology of Adolescence’ as part of my PME, I had been lucky in one sense that I have not had many associations with mental health issues. I had never directly been affected by mental health disorders nor have I had friends or family struggling from mental health issues that I have been aware of. After commencing this module, I soon realised that maybe I had been at a slight disadvantage or slightly alienated or naive to the issues surrounding psychological issues in adolescence and the importance of understanding both facts and misconceptions surrounding them. I soon learned the vital importance of understanding adolescent psychology as a future hopeful post-primary teacher and so have taken a vested interest in this foundation of education and how knowledge of this area can support an effective classroom learning environment and overall student well-being.

We learned from this module how the adolescent stage of life plays a huge role in the achievement of a sense of personal identity and how it is a period in which we make a series of self-defining choices on the way to becoming adults. Adolescence is also a time in which we come in contact with many stressors and pressures, from state exams to social groups, all in which have the potential to trigger mental health issues in adolescents. Headstrong (2011) outlines a number of possible triggers of mental health problems which include, drugs and alcohol, grief and loss, bullying, sexuality and gender identity.

From undertaking this module, we have learned about many psychological issues in adolescence. Of the many mental health disorders, we have learned about, anxiety and depression disorders are seen as the two most prevalent and are of a major concern of adolescents among their peers (Horowitz and Graf, 2019). Additionally, we learned how one in five adolescence is affected by mental health problems at any given time, with anxiety disorders affecting 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old (ADAA, n.d.). This is a worrying statistic for post-primary teachers as it statistically equates to one quarter of their classroom suffering with some form of anxiety, which ultimately hinders student’s attainment and concentration in class (NCSE, 2010).

There won’t be a student holding up a help sign. This image stresses the importance of teachers being able to identify signs and symptoms of psychological issues.

Emotions sorrow emotional
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It is important for teachers to be familiar with signs and symptoms of psychological issues in adolescents. The NCSE (2010) identifies characteristics and behaviours associated with emotional disturbance and/or behavioural problems which can be of great use to teachers in identifying students who may be affected with feelings of anxiety and depression. Some of these characteristics which relate to anxiety and depression include inattentiveness; impaired social interactions; withdrawal; negative self-concepts and low self-esteem. I think it is important to be aware of these characteristics that may be indicators of a larger mental issue ongoing with students as what is seen in cases of anxiety and depression. Teachers knowledge of ongoing psychological issues can support an effective classroom learning environment and overall student well-being.

As student teachers, it is important we understand ways in which we can help, intervene and direct the student onward should that be the case. There are many resources available in our society both on and offline in which we teachers can turn to for advice. One such resource is ‘Well-Being in Post-Primary Schools’ which provides guidelines for mental health promotion and suicide prevention (DES, 2013). Another such resource which could potentially aid in improving a student’s overall wellbeing is the schools own code of conduct and its approach to bullying. As bullying is known as being a ‘trigger’ (Headstrong, 2011), it is important that if a teacher notices a student is being bullied, that he/she can effectively adhere to the school’s own policy of bullying to ensure the situation is handled effectively.

There are a number of further ways in which teachers and school climates aid in alleviating stressors that may be causing increased anxiety or feelings of depression in adolescents. One way in particular could be for teachers and schools to provide adolescents with developmental opportunities to express their voices to help them shape their own lives (Levesque, 2002).  Fostering student voice will allow for the students to define themselves as individuals which can potentially bridge the gap between their own world and broader society (Levesque, 2002). This emphasis on recognizing and developing student voice will help ensure that schools and teachers respond to adolescents’ needs and address social concerns and aid in reducing feeling of anxiety and depression.

Mitchem and Dowling (2005) identifies strategies on how to include students with challenging behaviour into the classroom. Although the article is linked primarily with students who possess disruptive behaviour, and certain forms of depression can lead to mood swings (Headstrong, 2011), the article contains strategies that could prove beneficial to easing feeling of depression or anxiety in students. I think is important as teachers to build solid relationships with students. I believe building a relationship with students characterized by mutual trust, consideration and respect will aid in creating an open safe space for students to express and discuss their feelings of anxiety and depression if they need to. It is creating a trusting, confidential environment for students to express their feeling that I believe will aid in relieving these negative feeling for students.

I have also learned from this module that it is important for teachers to recognise the point in which further help is required from experts in psychology such as psychiatrists and support services. I think it is important that we as hopeful future teachers, realise that our primary profession is to be teachers, not psychiatrists, and that we will not always have the solution to student’s mental health problems. It is important that we recognise situations where additional help will be needed to help the students suffering from mental health issues. The ability for teachers to develop their knowledge of adolescent psychology will further aid in identifying students’ needs in the classroom which in turn will improve teacher’s overall pedagogy which will only but improve and support an effective classroom environment.

Studying this module as part of my PME has been a great eye-opener into the developing minds of adolescents and psychological issues they may face. In future I will continue to educate myself in the area of adolescent psychology and further develop my understanding of other mental health issues.

Reference List:

  • Levesque, R.J. (2002) ‘Dangerous adolescents, model adolescents: Shaping the role and promise of education’, Springer Science & Business Media, 13(1).
  • National Council for Special Education (NCSE) (2010) ‘Behavioural, emotional and social difficulties: a continuum of support: guidelines for teachers’. [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 16 February 2021).
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