This is an activity I modified a little from a great Health teacher named Deb Tackmann from Eau Claire WI. I simply added a few things and found a great video to use as an added attention getter.
The basic goal of this activity is to get the kids to grasp the sensation of what depression might feel like using a physical crisis to compare with an emotional one. It works well in helping teens understand what a depressed person might experience emotionally.
First I prep the kids with the video http://bit.ly/18APPH8 the kids start to freak out a little as the baby gets closer to water and I need to reassure them that everything works out so not to stress. (Your girls who babysit are the most uncomfortable)
Once the baby falls in the pool I pause the video. I ask the class what the baby (I call him little Bobby) might be experiencing or feeling. After getting a few responses I hand out the comparison sheet. http://bit.ly/17ZhPQj I have the kids (either in pairs, groups or individually) come up with a least 5 comparisons between little Bobby and a depressed teenager. I usually have one student give me an example as a starter. (Both are scared, both are struggling, if no one helps they both can die, etc .. ) I can use the answers from the original question of what they thought little Bobby might be experiencing or feeling as a way to kick start ideas. I give them about 3-4 mins to write their comparisons. I then ask for individuals or groups to share their responses. I use those responses to highlight out how a depressed person might feel and linking it to a person drowning so the kids grasp the connection.
After getting a number of responses I shift the question to the bottom half of the comparison sheet. Now I pose the scenario of “what if little Bobby’s mom just happened to be looking out the window and saw little Bobby reaching for the ball in the pool and just as she turned to run out she hears him fall in the pool.” Now the kids make comparisons between how little Bobby’s mom and friends of depressed teens are similar? Again, I have a student give an example aloud as a starter (Both are scared, both are the first to be able to help, both have a limited amount of time to get help, etc …) Again I give the kids about 3-4 mins to come up with comparisons. The goal here is to get the kids to see the similarities between a concerned mother and a concerned friend. I also want them to make a connection to the urgency of helping.
By now some of the kids are getting antsy about what happened to Bobby. I then play the rest of the video where it shows how little kids are taught how to survival swim as a drowning prevention program. When it is all finished I ask, “what do these kids have to protect them from drowning?” … the answer I am looking for is “SKILLS”. I have them make the connection of developing physical skills of swimming to reduce the risk of drowning just like we need to build resiliency skills to reduce our risk of developing depression which leads to suicide.
It has worked as a great intro to the depression/suicide unit and takes a difficult concept of understanding how a person feels with a scenario the kids can connect with like an infant drowning. It also sets up the next lesson called “Bulls Eye” which is a lesson about comparing what supports are available to a depressed teen vs. little Bobby.
Look for the “Bulls Eye” lesson in my Blog soon ….