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We Need to Talk

Tackling depression

by Claire Law (adapted)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the importance of talking in tackling depression.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (We Need to Talk) and the means to display them.

  • Have available 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, ‘What’s the first lesson?’, ‘What’s 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. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown that followed has been difficult for all of us to work through in some way. However, some of us have found it more difficult than others. Some of us may have lost loved ones, struggled greatly with the lack of social contact or felt lonely or depressed at some point.

  4. Today, we want to pause and think about depression, appreciating that talking about depression is a powerful way to tackle it.

  5. Ask the students, ‘What is depression?’

    Listen to a range of responses.

    According to the World Health Organization, depression is ‘a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness and poor concentration’. 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?’

  6. Just as anyone can catch a common cold, so anyone can suffer from depression - regardless of their age, sex or social status. Anyone can be affected directly or indirectly by depression.

    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.

    The following video 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’.

  8. Invite the students to spend 30 seconds discussing with each other the ways in which the man in the video 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 at the heart of tackling depression. We need to be honest with ourselves and talk to people whom we trust. Talking with people we 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, blogs or social media - helps to break down this stigma, which ultimately leads to more people seeking help. Perhaps there are people here who need to speak in person to someone they trust about mental health and how to stay healthy.

Time for reflection

Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on 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: October 2020   (Vol.22 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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