Earlier this week, I had a chat with a student who's missed more than half the class sessions this term because they're suffering from anxiety and depression.
I don't know what to say. Shakespeare doesn't help here. Don't kill a king. Marry someone who's wit and personal qualities match yours if you can. Don't ignore your day job if someone else is going to come in and cause problems for your dukedom.
It's not that I want to be unsympathetic, but I'm at a total loss.
I don't have much experience with real depression, but from the far sidelines experience I've had, it's horrible.
The thing is, if someone is too anxious or depressed to come sit in a classroom where little is demanded of them (a little small group discussion, maybe sharing ideas, but it's not like we're doing brain surgery and someone's going to die if we mess up), then really, my class is the least of their worries. How can you hold down a job? How do you deal with relationships? (Bad things happen in relationships: loved ones get sick and need care and love, for example. That can be hard under the best of circumstances.)
What I want to say, but don't, because I know it's not helpful is "just get up and drag yourself through the day like most of us do."
I don't say that, and I know it wouldn't help. But seriously, I think for an awful lot of people in the world, getting up and dragging themselves through the day is how they get by a lot of the time.
And I think it's probably always been that way. There was probably some Homo erectus out there who really didn't want to get out of the nest they'd made the night before, but then got hungry enough to either get up and go forage or decide to just lie there and get eaten by something else. And until they couldn't any more, they got up and went to forage. And even if they went out to forage, something else might have eaten them.
Those of us who are lucky, mostly get up and are happy to do what we're paid to do, at least mostly. (I would be happier not to have to grade or fill out assessment paperwork, but there you go!)
I tried to help this student, gave them an option to help them catch up, dug out handouts for them, and so on. I wish I felt even slightly confident that I could be helpful.
What's the most helpful thing for students with anxiety/depression (for an academic instructor) to do?
Edited to Add: I should have mentioned the counseling services stuff before. The counseling services and the student were already working together, along with the Dean of Students office coordinating.