How (Not) to Motivate a Depressed Student and Help Them Improve Their School Performance
Many of the young women who come to Discovery Ranch for Girls (DRG) come to the school with spotty academic records. These students often have mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or borderline personality traits that make progressing in school difficult for them. During their stay at DRG, most students improve academically, especially in terms of motivation and passion towards schoolwork, and in the acquisition and development of study skills. This upward trajectory will usually continue after the student has returned home. Clint Firth, the Academic Director of DRG, offers some insight into why unmotivated, depressed students become academic achievers.
Improvement is Natural
When Clint was asked how he motivated depressed students, he gave a surprising answer.
“At DRG Academics we don’t really have a specific procedure for how we motivate depressed kids,” Clint said. “We believe in developing a growth mindset, but there isn’t a set procedure for making that happen. It is something that happens organically.” He explained that most students become noticeably less depressed simply by participating in the program.
“Our students have so many positive experiences in Equine, Sports, Music, Peer Relationships, Family Relationships, or any of the other activities that they are participating in on campus. The positive momentum that they feel from these other activities transfers to school.”
According to Clint, all kids want to do well in school. “They naturally value learning and when they start feeling more positive about their own self-worth and ability to learn and grow, they will seize the opportunity to learn.”
High Standards and Helping Hands
Teachers, tutors, and mentors who work in the classroom at DRG maintain high expectations. However, they don’t become deterred by students who don’t live up to them.
“The overall attitude among the staff is, ‘I know this is hard for you now, but you’ll figure it out soon enough. We’ll be here supporting you along the way.’ This helps depressed students realize that we’re all in this together, and doesn’t contribute to their anxiety.” said Clint.
In the end, there is no checklist or gimmicky motivational strategy to follow. Kind, caring people who don’t accept that students are the hopeless people they claim to help heal depression. Clinical support is critical to helping depressed students find success in school. DRG not only offers students the clinical support that they need, but we also provide students with the opportunity to work at their own pace with the guidance and supervision of teachers.