As the author states in his preface, this book is intended as a resource for educators who deal with depression in the classroom. Providing this information at the secondary school level is potentially quite valuable, as students of younger and younger ages are being diagnosed with serious psychological disorders. Furthermore, this population is at high risk for suicide, which further highlights the need for knowledgeable, informed adults who can provide early intervention. Therefore, educators and parents may be considered a first line of defense for addressing the problem of depression in school-aged children.
Unfortunately, while the premise of this book is sound and the need for it certain, the end product falls short. Given that his intended audience consists mainly of educators, not mental health professionals, Author Lebrun attempts to make his writing clear and accessible, often keeping his chapters short and avoiding the use of jargon. Unfortunately, in these efforts, he sometimes sacrifices clarity, actually mudding the waters with his inappropriate use of existent terms. For example, in his opening chapter, Lebrun makes a supposedly important distinction between "clinical" depression and "psychological" depression, but his definitions are not consistent with accepted psychological diagnostic categories. Furthermore, although some of the material presented is certainly valuable, it is poorly organized and not arranged in a manner which would make logical sense to the layperson reader. Although Lebrun begins appropriately with the causes of depression in young people, he then inserts a chapter on statistics between separate sections on checklists and assessments before returning to additional causes of depression in the guise of "influences" on today's youth.
Some of the book's second half is more successful in that there is a greater focus on practical information. In particular, the chapters on necessary personnel, what teachers can do, what parents can do, and classroom strategies are likely to be helpful both to individuals dealing with depressed youth and to those who are working to improve the educational system's response to student depression. There is also a chapter on case studies written from the varied perspectives of students and parents; these provide some useful insight into the actual experience of depression in young people as well as the ways in which it affects those around them. Less helpful, however, is the information on medication and therapies, which is poorly organized and likely to confuse the average reader. Similarly, the chapters on warning signs of online depression and suicide seem out of place here, as they would have fit much better earlier in the book. Finally, the author includes resource list of state mental health resources, but unfortunately, this list is not comprehensive (e.g., the listing for New York state did not offer any agencies west of Albany) and is likely to quickly become outdated.
Clearly, this book addresses the vital need to provide further education about the increasing problem of depression in the younger generation. Regrettably, it is not nearly as effective as a similar work written for the college-aged population, College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What to Do About It. In absence of better-quality product, Student Depression definitely has some utility, and thus I would recommend it for educators, parents, and others with some reservations as noted above.
© 2007 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students at SUNY Geneseo. She is also a Top 100 Reviewer at Amazon.com and the official yoga media reviewer for iHanuman.com.