Columbine Teacher's Guide

Discussion Questions: Teen Depression

Teen Depression—The Greatest Unlearned Lesson of Columbine

  1. Explain the difference between clinical depression and “sadness.” What makes depression so dangerous?

  2. Identify five common consequences of depression. Discuss how each one can devastate the life a teen ager.

  3. Did you know 6% of U.S. teens suffer clinical depression? Discuss the impact to schools and individuals. Alternative: discuss the economic impact with adults. (See the Psychology Module for citations on the 6% figure, etc.)

  4. Outline the two major strategies for treating depression. How successful are they?

  5. Discuss the controversies surrounding pharmacological treatment. Is there legitimate cause for concern?

  6. Discuss the suicide rate among teens. What are the key warning signs? How do you approach a classmate you fear is in danger? What can you do if you fear it in yourself? 

  7. React to the statement: “Parents and schools are drugging our kids out of our  problem.” Are anti-depressants over-prescribed? Under-prescribed? Take a position.

  8. What causes depression? Are there genetic predispositions? How significant are external factors in bringing it on (e.g., breakup with a boyfriend/girlfriend). Who is most at-risk?

  9. Does a depression diagnosis still carry a social stigma? How might that change?

  10. What have organizations like the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended as strategies for diagnosis and treatment?

  11. What is in place in your school to diagnose and treat kids in trouble? How effective is it? How could that change?

  12. (For more questions, topics, outside readings and selected Columbine passages, see the “Case Study in Teen Depression: Dylan Klebold” unit in the Psychology Module.)

Depression and Dylan Klebold

  1. What role did depression play in the attack? Would Dylan have killed people if he’d been diagnosed and treated?

  2. Describe the misery Dylan was going through. What was so painful for him? Did that change over time? How did his responses to it change?

  3. How did Dylan see himself? How did his self-image compare to objective assessments (e.g., based on his social calendar, how his friends saw him and related to him, etc.)

  4. Why was Dylan never diagnosed with depression? Should he have been? How do you think that would have affected the outcome?

  5. How often do angry depressives commit murder? Outline the progression from suicide through single murder to mass murder.  What causes a person to make that progression?

  6. Read the essay published by his mother, Susan Klebold in 2009. (In O Magazine. Full citation in the depression section of the Psychology Module).  List five warning signs she could identify in retrospect. How common are each? How does a parent, teacher or friend know when to take each one seriously?

    See the Teen Depression Unit for resources, warning signs, hotlines,further reading, detailed questions and much more.