Topic 5 Case studies and resources

You notice that Mary who is generally a shy and quiet 9 year old kid, appears to be wiping tears from her eyes. You know that Mary has experienced financial insecurity at home and she appears anxious at school, seems to be struggling to complete her homework and when asked to respond to a question appears agitated. When you approach the student, she tells you that she lately feels overwhelmed and very anxious about everything that she has to do about school. She feels worried and doesn’t know how and where to start with her homework and school responsibilities.

  • Recognise and validate the student’s distress- it is hard to be this anxious for a long time and it is OK to cry when feeling overwhelmed.
  • Actively and non-judgmentally listen to the student’s story, if they wish to share it with you.
  • Offer to help them organise with their school activities and see if their stress levels decrease.
  • Ask them if they have spoken to their parents about their worries. Offer to connect them with the school counsellor (if there is one) or remind them the importance of asking for help and speaking to their parents, siblings and peers when they feel anxious or overwhelmed.

Thank you for sharing that with me. I noticed you were tearful, and I’m very sorry that you’re upset. I won’t pretend to know exactly how you’re feeling, but I understand you are feeling anxious about schoolwork. Sometimes, we become overwhelmed with our everyday responsibilities especially if we have been through the difficult process of worrying a lot about money. This is only natural. If you feel comfortable, please tell me more about how you’re feeling and how you’ve been affected. Do your parents know how you feel lately? You could discuss your worries and concerns with your parents or your peers because sometimes sharing our worries with loved ones can make us feel much better. I can also support you by discussing how best to organise your schoolwork in time.

A 15 year old student, Gary, shows up to class after not coming for a couple of weeks. Over the following days Gary appears sad, and is not talking to any of his classmates as he used to. You have noticed that Gary often seems distracted and looks like he is tired or hasn’t slept well, with low energy. As everyone is packing up their bags at the end of class, you approach the student. After talking privately with you in the empty classroom for a few minutes, the student discloses that he doesn’t want to be in school, he is feeling hopeless and tired all the time and sometimes has trouble getting up from bed.

  • Validate their feelings by acknowledging that being tired all the time and feeling hopeless must be very hard.
  • Listen and respond in an empathetic way.
  • Suggest they talk to their parents about their feelings
  • Suggest they talk to someone from the counselling services
  • This sounds really challenging, and I’m so sorry that you’re going through this tough time right now. It must be really hard and upsetting to feel tired all the time and struggle with getting on with your everyday activities. I understand not wanting to come to class, it is a lot of pressure especially when you feel hopeless. Have you talked to your parents about how you feel? It could be really helpful to talk to your loved ones, and share your worries with them. There are also school counsellors that I can refer you to, who are there if you need to talk about being tired or the feeling of hopelessness you have. They can also give you advice on how to cope with everything. Would you like me to help you connect with them?

Sites with specific information on how to how to help children in the COVID-19 pandemic

Your Tough Conversation Toolkit is helpful if you:

  • Want to know how to respond to a student when they share personal mental health concerns with you.
  • Are looking to help a student recognise and seek help for a health or behavioural issue.
  • Need strategies for encouraging a student to overcome ambivalence and move toward positive change.


Your Tough Conversation Toolkit- Here are some examples of how to start a conversation: