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Tackling depression

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To mark the World Health Organization’s World Health Day 2017.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (#LetsTalk) and the means to display them.

  • You will also need the YouTube video ‘I had a black dog, his name was depression’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 4.18 minutes long and is available at:


  1. Show Slide 1.

    Ask the students, ‘What were the last three things you talked about this morning?’

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Hopefully, the responses will include things such as, Whats the first lesson?’, Whats happening at the weekend?’, Who fancies who?’ and What were the football scores last night?

  2. Ask the students, Did any of you talk about the illness of depression?

    Point out that it is unlikely that this subject was discussed because many people feel uncomfortable speaking about it. In fact, many people find it difficult to talk about mental health in general. However, it is important to talk about mental health issues because we are all affected by them.

  3. Today’s assembly marks World Health Day 2017, which is a campaign run by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is a global health awareness day that is celebrated on 7 April each year. This year, the theme for World Health Day is depression and its aim is to get people all around the world to talk about depression and to understand that talking about depression is a powerful way to tackle it.

  4. Ask the students, What is depression?

    Listen to a range of responses.

    According to the WHO, depression is an illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks. In addition, people who have depression normally have several of the following symptoms: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; a change in sleeping pattern; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. These feelings can lead the sufferer to ask questions such as, ‘What is the point of life?’, ‘What is the point of eating?’ or ‘Why do I worry about everything?’

  5. Just as anyone can catch a common cold, so anyone can suffer from depression. That is why the WHO campaign is so important because anyone - regardless of their age, sex or social status - can be affected directly or indirectly by depression.

  6. However, there are some factors that make it more likely that someone will suffer from depression. The risk of becoming depressed is increased by poverty, unemployment, life events such as the death of a loved one or a relationship break-up, physical illness and problems caused by alcohol and drug use.

  7. Show Slide 2.

    Depression has affected many people throughout history. Winston Churchill, the prime minister during the Second World War, suffered from depression. He gave a name to the feeling of sadness and loss of interest that he experienced. He spoke about a ‘black dog’ that seemed determined to follow him around.

    Explain that the following clip describes a man’s struggle with depression and some of the ways in which he coped.

    Show the YouTube video ‘I had a black dog, his name was depression’. It is 4.18 minutes long.

  8. Invite the students to spend 30 seconds discussing with each other the ways in which the man in the clip managed his depression.

    Show Slide 3.

    Go through the checklist on the slide, which shows ways of managing depression:

    - Seeking professional help
    - Taking medication
    - Learning to quieten the mind
    - Taking regular exercise
    - Keeping a mood journal
    - Remembering each day what we are grateful for
    - Being honest with people around us

  9. The last point on the list is the core message of the World Health Day 2017 campaign. We need to be honest with ourselves and talk to people whom we trust. The hashtag for World Health Day is #LetsTalk. Talking with people you trust can be a first step towards recovery from depression. The stigma surrounding mental illness, including depression, remains a barrier to people seeking help throughout the world. Talking about depression - whether it is one to one, with a family member, friend or medical professional; in larger groups, such as in schools, the workplace and social settings; or in the public domain, such as in the news media, blogs or social media - helps to break down this stigma, which ultimately leads to more people seeking help. Perhaps you can be part of this year’s campaign by using the hashtag #LetsTalk, or by speaking in person to someone you trust about mental health and how to stay healthy.

Time for reflection

Lets pause for a moment to reflect upon what this might mean for us.

First, think about people in your own life whom you regard as trusted people. Who could you open up to? Who could you talk to if you had a problem, including a mental health difficulty?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Second, how might you encourage people around you to be open and honest with you? How can you be a trusted person to other people in your family and friendship group?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Finally, is there any conversation about mental health in general, or about depression in particular, that it is important for you to have today?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Remind students of the relevant pastoral care structures in place within the school setting, such as form tutors, heads of year, the pastoral manager and the chaplaincy team.

Dear God,
You created our bodies and our minds, and you love us.
We pray for those people throughout the world, including those within our own school community, who struggle with the illness of depression.
Help us all to play our part today in encouraging one another to talk honestly about our health – including our mental health.
Help us all to act as trusted individuals who can respect and show empathy and kindness to others.

Publication date: April 2017   (Vol.19 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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